I never lie down to rest without realizing how blessed I am to have a bed to sleep in. I have known so many who did not: homeless people who must sleep sitting up if they want to be inside out of the cold. If you can't put your feet up, the circulation to your feet deteriorates: cellulitis can develop, a painful swelling of the feet and legs, which blister into festering sores. Many times, I have seen and smelled gangrene as a result of this.
If there is room in the right place, they can line up three chairs into a makeshift bed. It's better than sitting up, but there are worries: they feel vulnerable, lying down, afraid for their belongings. And the chairs are far from comfortable. They are better than nothing, though.
Some people don't come inside at all. They make houses out of the cardboard cartons refrigerators come in, enhancing them with old umbrellas, shower curtains, discarded raincoats spread over the top to keep it dry, their belongings arranged along the inside edges of these little houses as insulation, all their clothing in layers on their bodies. They stay warmer than one would think. But not warm enough: it can get cold here in the winter. Some of them freeze to death, alone in the dark.
I slide between clean sheets and pull the down comforter up past my chin. I have lots of aches and pains these days, so I writhe a bit until I am comfortable. I read a book, or listen to music on the radio. I drift off to sleep. But I never do so without remembering them, and the accident of birth that landed me in my comfortable bed and them in a chair, in a box, leaning up against a church in the cold and dark. Lord, have mercy.
This is the time of year when many people remember them. Maybe your bonus won't be what it was -- the economy has been very weird this year. Maybe you don't get a bonus in your line of work. Maybe this has been a hard year. Maybe so. But I know some harder ones.
Tonight, slip under the covers of your bed and get warm. Stretch until you don't ache any more. And don't forget them.
Barbara Crafton will read and sign copies of her newest book, Mary and Her Miracle, a retelling of the nativity story, available just in time for Christmas giving, at several locations in the coming weeks.
In Hopewell Junction, NY at the Church of the Resurrection -- the book is dedicated to this congregation -- on Sunday, November 18, where Barbara will celebrate, preach (7:30 and 9:30), read and sign books, and then take a nap. Phone the church at 845-226-5727.
In New York City: Thursday, November 29th, 4pm at Catalyst Bookstore and Cafe, 815 Second Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets, telephone 1-800-334-7626. The book's illustrator, Diane Robbins, will also be present. Other Crafton titles are also available at Catalyst.
On Long Island: St. John's, Lattingtown at noon on December 6th. The December Geranium Journey comes to beautiful St. John's at noon. Bring a bag lunch and enjoy fellowship and good conversation and a reading from Mary. Telephone 516-671-3226.
Also on Long Island, December 8th, a Quiet Day with Barbara Crafton at St. Peter's, Bay Shore. Books will be available and she will read a bit from Mary at lunch. Telephone the church at 631.666.0908
In Bethlehem, PA: Sunday, December 9th, 12noon - 4pm at 301 Broadway Bethlehem, PA 18015, telephone 610-867-4626. Barbara and Diane will both be present for a reading and signing and some Christmas shopping -- Stone Soup sells amazing handmade crafts from a number of Pennsylvania artists, some of whom have their studios onsite.
In Metuchen, NJ on Sunday, December 17th, 1pm at The Raconteur, Metuchen's awesome independent bookstore.(732) 906-0009. Excellent restaurants -- Italian, French, Afghan, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese -- abound on Metuchen's Main Street, all of them within a block of the bookstore. Metuchen is the home of the Geranium Farm.