The Yellow Blanket

There he was, huddled in the corner of a doorway. His clothes were dirty, his coat frayed and tattered, shivering in the winter cold. I had not noticed him before. My thoughts had been on other things as I walked the familiar street each day.

As he looked up at me, I looked away, but not quickly enough to avoid seeing the sadness and longing in his eyes. That look haunted me the rest of the week. I took a different route, just to avoid the emotions he stirred in me. After all, I worked for a living, why couldn't he?

I was drawn back to that street, to that doorway. He was gone! My heart sank and tears filled my eyes. Had I deliberately avoided an opportunity to show compassion; committed the sin of omission? Had he frozen to death? His body went unclaimed, buried in an unmarked grave? As I stood there, eyes filling, staring at the empty doorway and praying, "God, forgive me," a hand reached out and touched my shoulder.

"Excuse me. You're blocking my doorway." came the strange voice with the familiar eyes. I wiped my eyes with my shirt sleeve as I hurried off, almost fearful I might reach out and hug him.

The next day I purchased a blanket. It was $20. I hadn't bought myself a new blanket in years, but this was for my friend.

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Honoring his dignity, I watched his doorway until he left. When he was out of sight, I placed the large bag containing the blanket in his doorway. The bitter winter wind stung my face as I hurried back to my hiding place, hoping not to be seen.

"From one friend to another. God bless you. " He stared at the note. I didn't even know if he could read. Placing the blanket back in the bag, he propped it into the corner, resting his head against the cold crisp bag.

I was angry! How unappreciative! I felt like going across the street and saying, "Look, Mister, if you can't appreciate it, I'll just keep it! " But of course, I didn't. I just went on my way, angry.

Deciding that night that maybe I had overreacted, I prayed for understanding. The next morning as I walked his street, I passed the doorway. There he was with a bottle of wine in his hand and a glimmer in his eye. But no blanket! I was devastated; frustration overwhelming me. I cast a dirty look his way and the glimmer in his eye turned into a tear. What a lot of nerve! And he wants pity, too!

I was not a nice person to be around the rest of the day. I'd been had. Used. Taken advantage of. And for him to have the nerve to smile at me, as if to say, " Ha, ha. Got ya! " How dare he trade my blanket, my new $20 blanket, for a 99 cent bottle of wine! I vowed never to throw away my money on a lost cause again.

 

With a deliberateness in my step, I walked the familiar street. I would pass his doorway with my head held high. If he dared to look at me, I would look the other way. As I neared the doorway, my heart pounded so loudly, I was certain he could hear it. He looked up at me as I passed. I looked away.

     My eyes focused on something I had never noticed before, and on my yellow blanket. Huddled in an old dilapidated car were two small children, wrapped snugly in the yellow blanket! Their father was waving and shouting, " Thank you, thank you. God bless you. " He was shouting to me!                  
                                                                                 
Carol 1988