On May 16, 2010, I was given a chance to prove my worth and ... I failed miserably. I failed ... with all three of my children as my witness.
That Sunday morning, my wife was busy saving lives. After Mass, I drove my three hungry children to our favorite fast-food drive-in. I was immediately served. I patiently distributed the burgers, fries, and milk, and finally got myself settled in the driver's seat. It was a pleasant day. I rolled down all of the windows and opened the moonroof. I prepared my meal so I could have everything conveniently placed for eating. Lastly, I asked everybody if they had given thanks to God for this meal. I said my own prayers and as I was about to take my first bite, a homeless man approached our vehicle. Our windows were completely rolled down. I hadn't even noticed that he was nearby.
Without hesitation, he moved within a few feet of my window and kindly asked for a hamburger. I closed my mouth, took a breath, and said, "Sorry". I was feeling irritated, still trying to take the first bite of my burger. He continued to speak to me. He was speaking incoherently, trying to convey something to me. I tried to understand what he was saying. When I couldn't decipher his words, I simply dismissed him.
He moved away. I was uneasy by what had just happened and I still hadn't managed to take my first bite, especially with this homeless man lingering around my children. Then, he approached a second time. My patience was running out as he continued to mutter words I could not understand. As he drew closer, this time, from one of my children's window, I abruptly spouted, "Can you STOP bothering us while we're eating?" With that, he moved away from our vehicle. As the man backed up, he finally said something that I clearly understood. From a distance, he yelled, "I don't drink or do drugs!" Then he returned to muttering incoherently, and walked away.
I remained irritated for the next few minutes. I still hadn't taken my first bite. I took a deep breath, trying to regain my emotional balance. Then, I looked into the rearview mirror. My heart sank as I witnessed my three children, eyes fixed upon the food on their laps, quietly chewing. I could feel their curious minds wanting to say something, but no one dared break the silence. I was afraid of what they were going to say as it finally dawned on me that I had just turned away a person in need. The same expression on their collective faces was a revelation for me; one of shame. I manned up and I broke the silence, not only because I'm their daddy, but also because it was the best reaction to make. I spent the next few minutes explaining that I had just made an awful mistake. In return, my three children expressed what I had feared. I was tested for the purpose of generosity, while irritated, and I chose poorly.
My burger was cold. I timidly ate my meal. I continually scoped the area around us, in hopes that I could have a second chance, and somehow make things right, for him and for my children. But, like before, when I hadn't noticed this homeless man within our midst, he was gone. I was never given a second chance. That's how tests of worth are; no "do-overs"; no second chances. One set of circumstances equals one chance. That time will forever be etched in the memories of my children. Even now, my daughter clearly recalls that time and every time, I clearly admit my wrong-doing. I was tested and I failed. I'm accountable for those actions that can never be recalled, or erased. It's my responsibility to own my actions. In this case, I never can make amends.
Some may not find anything wrong with my actions, especially with the safety of my children, potentially at stake. I have to admit that I never felt threatened by his presence; a little weary, and terribly irritated, but not threatened. We were sitting in the midst of many people, during broad daylight. Fear wasn't really an issue. And, THAT is what scars my soul. I had the chance to prove my worth and give to someone in need. It's when conditions are less than ideal, that an opportunity to prove worth holds the greatest value. I hold that lesson dear to my heart, praying that I will never make that same mistake, ever again.
"The Christmas Shoes" is a Christmas-themed song, based on a true story, by the Christian vocal group NewSong. The song was released as a bonus track on their 2000 album Sheltering Tree, and it reached No. 31 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. A year after NewSong's version, country music group, 3 of Hearts, released their own version, which peaked at No. 39 on the country chart. In 2002, Donna VanLiere took the story and the theme of the song and produced a novelization which was published in 2002 by St. Martin's Press. The book became a made-for-TV movie released in December 2002.