Friday, December 24, 2010
A Christmas Story
God is the father of the baby, she says. Not the silent man. She was visited by an angel and the baby was conceived by a holy ghost. She and the man have not consummated their marriage.
I am a virgin, she says. Obviously, she's mentally ill.
She needs medication, pre-natal care, maybe hospitalization. The silent man looks schizoid. She says something about him being a carpenter, but presently unemployed. They have little money; no health insurance.
It's Christmas Eve.
The social safety net is worn thin. No one is answering their phone. The woman is eerily calm as you try number after number and listen to voicemail after voicemail greeting. No one is at their desk at 4:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. If anyone is still working, they are probably in the field dealing with other crises.
A last, bad alternative to the cold of the street, you call a guy you know runs a welfare hotel. He's there. You offer a voucher. He says he wishes he could, but his last bed went an hour ago.
There's a garage out back, though, he says. It's cold, but he thinks he has an old kerosene he can drag out there. Strictly against the rules, but you have to do something. You've spent enough time on these people, there's a guy in the waiting room going into withdrawal and you still have to find a place for him.
You tell them about the garage, feeling an unreasonable guilt, but also with some trepidation. The young woman accepts this graciously, the man with silent stoicism.
She smiles, beatifically, her eyes as deep as if they knew all the secrets of the human heart, and then some.
God bless you, she says.
It's long dark when you leave, hours later, and cold. In the distance you hear a choir, the voices angelic on the frigid wind.
A thousand miles away, a wise man watches a star rise in the East.
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