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So many people waiting, hankering.

He sat several seats from me at a bar in midtown Manhattan, a glass of beer before him. He was elderly and wore a little beanielike cap and had not shaved for several days. He took out a dollar bill and all the change in his pocket and placed it all next to the glass of beer, then carefully arranged the coins in stacks on top of the dollar bill. Soon there was a tiny city of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. He asked for another glass of beer. As he waited, his fingers slowly slid the stacks from one part of the dollar to another.

A young man who lives near here is mentally handicapped and has a physical infirmity, too. He doesn't quite walk; he sort of stumbles and moves as if threatened by something others cannot see. He gives the impression of being so absorbed in the present that he has no past or future available to his heart and mind.

His mother is a crossing guard in the neighborhood. She is obviously poor yet very proud of her son, probably the only wealth she has ever known. I have never heard of or seen her husband. She is very good with the kids who must await her signal before crossing the street.

There is a woman who leans out her window every day, gazing at the street below as if she were looking for someone or something. She seems to have a great capacity for waiting. Even late at night I see her there, expecting something that never seems to arrive.

Men hang out at the corner every day, all poor, many jobless, a few homeless. They wait on Mondays and Thursdays for the lottery numbers to be announced. Those with a winning ticket go to the liquor store to redeem it. On those days, a bottle is bought and shared with the others. I do not think there has ever been a big win among them. They are all waiting for those magic numbers.

We are all waiting for something. Our lives are one long wait, filled with millions of little waits.

I see these people in the neighborhood and I very much want a context for them, a reason for their waiting and hoping, a truth that will redeem every banal second, every weary hour. I hope for a truth that will make their stumblings and longings bearable, worthy of address and profoundly human.

Christmas nears. A child's birth is on the horizon. Oh, God, we hunger for you to make straight our steps to come and be near and give our lives light and warmth.

But we celebrate the day you did come, the day you were born. You gave a focus and direction to every open window, every stumbling human who seeks warm and loving arms. You gave hope to the weary and despairing, asking that we learn to wait.

I cannot interpret all I see in light of you. But help me know you are there: in that old man's fingers, in that woman's longing, in that boy's frantic eyes, in his mother's arms, in the men's sharing of cheap wine, in our need to find love and friendship and peace.

Through your birth we are reminded that we are being born into something wondrous. I cannot see it fully; indeed, I can hardly see it at all. But I long for it and hope for it as I stumble through my life toward your arms like that boy, knowing that you are love and have come to us.
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Title Annotation:meditation; Christmas
Author:Behrens, Jeff
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 24, 1993
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