Though the other offerings for this challenge have been mostly festive, the following is a more sober story that stemmed from my visit to the Bay Area in early December. Hopefully the visual aids can provide some of the festive mood the words lack.
Out of the songs popular this time of year, "The Little Drummer Boy" is not at the top of my playlist. At times, it sounds like audio fanfiction disturbing a personal moment. After my Saturday in the Bay Area, I was able to put the song into a different light. This time of year also is full of small personal moments, especially when we don't expect it.
As often happens in a place like Berkeley, parking was a premium. The search for parking brought more frustration as the parking directions on Cal's site were not exactly helpful. The first open opportunity was a Union Methodist Parking Lot across from Haas Pavilion. The price was higher than I anticipated, but at the time convenience trumped my budget. The experience left me in a dour state of mind. I was so flustered I had to come back to my car before entering the game because the ticket had fallen out of my folder during my search to find the parking money. I made a simple nod to the parking attendant as I grabbed my ticket. As far as I knew the only people in the lot were myself and the attendant. The Red Line Upset
quelled some of the frustration but I left Haas angry at myself for the lack of planning.
Entering the parking lot, I saw the parking attendant had left for the night and my mind shifted toward where to get gas since most cars, let alone SUVs, have a hard time making round trip of over 250 miles on one tank. Just before I started my car, something caught my eye.
At the top of the Methodist Church's stone staircase sat a pink blanket and what looked like a baby carrier. Noting my surroundings, the weather and time of year, my catholic guilt grew three sizes that instant. I realized I had a way to help this pair.
One of my odd abilities is to accumulate various items for trips and everyday life that allow me to get through situations ala Jennings in the Philip K. Dick short story "Paycheck
" or the main character in many an RPG. On my Bay Area trip, I brought two water bottles and two satsumas, also known as Christmas Oranges. In my youth, I couldn't understand why my grandmother put oranges in my stocking. I thought oranges were too much work for the result
so I never ate them. This year I realized the succinct nature of the food, making them an ample car treat for freeway jams or layoffs between destinations. Figuring I could grab food when I filled up, I decided to offer my remaining water bottle and the pair of satsumas to the mother and child.
Though the parking lot was small, the distance felt great. Upon reaching the top of the staircase, the circumstances had changed slightly, but the need did not. The recipients of my offerings were a homeless man and his backpack. For a brief instant, I was impressed by the man for choosing a relatively warm place to make camp since the high walls of the staircase provided some break from the winds and the distance from the street allowed shelter from passersby.
When his eyes met mine, I knew he wasn't asleep and therefore I would not be giving and ditching. After simple thanks were exchanged, the man told me he was trying to improve his standing thanks to the efforts of the Unitarian Church. My social awkwardness took over and, feeling uncomfortable asking how he got there, I shook his hand and introduced myself in a roundabout way to learn his name because a stranger's just a friend you haven't met. I learned before departing into the cold night the brave soul planning to spend his night in that pink comforter was aptly named Victor. Bidding him safe travels and a wish for cooperative temperatures, I walked back to my car rather humbled. Before I attempted to start my car, I saw a group of people walking across the parking lot via the adjacent alley. Luckily, the people just walked on by rather than hassling Victor.
A higher power might exist, but sometimes circumstances arise to remind us there are greater problems than a phone's lack of battery life or whether a game is really an upset. As Thomas Merton said: "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real."
A few days later, I also learned the truth
behind the odd Christmas classic: "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy," sung by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, embedded at the top of this submission. Apparently, Bowie disliked "Little Drummer Boy" and some quick improvisation by a team of writers created the odd duet. One of the awesome and baffling parts of this season is the ability for seemingly incompatible people to spend time and make temporary peace. "Little Drummer Boy" might not be my favorite song, but living it for a few moments has given me a deeper appreciation for this time of year.
While you gather and celebrate during this time around the Winter Solstice, remember those that are less off and find a way to help via canned good gift to the local food bank.
"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." -Leo Buscaglia