The man holds out his hat, waves of sorrow
breaking along the shorelines of his grizzled face.
As people avoid his glance, he sees
—just for a moment—with the eyes of
a god. He sees us afraid
of simple human contact,
as if his afflictions were contagious.
He pities us for our weakness.

Another man, also without shelter,
bedraggled, alone,
nods his head to the first man,
bums a cigarette, asks about beds for the night.
The two share an understanding of the frailties
of life, of the weaknesses of the flesh,
of the burning of bridges, of hopes
—quiet or wild­—beyond what we might
be able to reach if we were in their shoes.

We see them talking. We do not understand
what subtleties pass between them,
our animal fear trumping human feeling.
Then, like dominoes, some long-standing barriers
within us suddenly dissolve.
We momentarily see
with god-like eyes ourselves—
see the prisons we carry inside,
see that opening to the unknown
in a simple daily occurrence like this
is actually within our grasp.

We know that if God exists,
then He exists in this moment, this encounter—
that there is no scenario we couldn’t handle
with dignity, if our eyes were not averted,
if we knew that what we have been
looking for
all our lives
might come in just
this unexpected package,
waiting for us to unwrap it
with Christmas eyes.

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