It was the typical holiday bustle, crowds rushing from one store to the next, hurried last minute shopping still to be done. The night was clear and cold with stars twinkling through a velvety blue blanket of sky. Store windows were brightly lit with every clever display you could imagine, and if you were a child you just gasped in the wonder of it all. Groups, gaggles of people, like geese were downtown for the holiday festivities. Families crowded around Fountain Square, itself lit up and sparkling like the rest of the Queen City. Boys and girls decked out in their festive best. Wonderful smells from hot cocoa and pretzel vendors wafted along the light breeze. Truly a magical night for this Christmas season.
Our family had come to see the annual train display; a Cincinnati tradition. My husband was driving, so as a passenger I could gawk at all the lights and sounds along with our kids. I was pointing out various displays to them, but it became overwhelming so I left them to look at what they wanted, and I let my gaze wander over the buildings interesting architecture. As I did so my eyes were drawn to an alleyway, starkly dim amongst all the lights. In the alleyway was a man in tattered clothes climbing into a dumpster. It was a quick vignette and then we rounded the corner, my vision once again obscured by the lights and crowds, but in that moment was a sight that I haven’t forgotten for 35 years. I doubt that I ever will.
In the years since that outing I have had good years and lean years, years with family and years where members were absent. But somehow in the middle of all the rush that is this time of year, there is always a moment somewhere that the vision from the past stops me in my tracks. It has a way of letting me know that I need to slow down physically and economically and just appreciate and be thankful for my good fortune. So instead of twinkling lights and nativity scenes, the vision I am sharing with you is of the man in the dumpster. He is us all.