"May I help you?" I asked a little impatiently.
"I was wondering if you had a little something that you could spare me to eat," he said, "and maybe a hot cup of tea or coffee?"
I sighed. I didn't have time for this. But as I looked at this poor soul shivering in the cold, I couldn't refuse him. Though my daughter and I had little food in the house, I said, "I don't have much, but I can make you some toast and peanut butter and a warm cup of tea."
"That would be great," he said, rubbing his hands together and blowing on them to try to get them warm.
I wasn't going to let this stranger into my house. I didn't know him and he was a tall man, probably about 6' 2" and his hands were huge. He had a stocky build and I knew that if he wanted to, he could knock me down in an instant. Yet he had the most kind, blue eyes - so blue that it seemed I could look into the depths of his soul.
"Do you mind waiting here?" I asked.
"Not at all," he answered. "Thank you."
I made the man four slices of toast and spread them thickly with peanut butter while the tea was brewing in the pot. I put the food on a paper plate and poured the strong amber tea into a cup. I took them to the step where the man stood and handed the food and tea to him.
"Thanks kindly, Maam," he said.
I went back into the house and went about my business. Before long, I decided to check to see if the man had finished the food and tea. He had, so I poured him another cup of tea and asked him if he could use a warm pair of gloves. I had a pair that had belonged to my late husband and knew that they weren't doing anyone any good on the shelf in the closet. I also took him a pair of work boots that had been my husband's.
As I handed the man the boots and gloves, tears welled in his rheumy eyes. "Are you sure, Maam?" he asked.
"Most definitely," I assured him.
The man sat down on the step and placed the boots on his feet. A perfect fit. Then he pulled the gloves onto his beet-red hands. They also fit perfectly.
I walked into the house and remembered that I had some cookies and a cake in the freezer. I grabbed them and ran out of the house to give them to him. He was nowhere in sight.
We lived in the middle of the block. A church was on one side and a power transformer on the other. I ran to the corner and looked up and down the street. Nothing. I ran around the corner to the church. Again there was no one in sight. Where could he have gone? He hadn't had time to get far enough away that I couldn't see him. How strange!
A week later on Christmas Eve, a taxi pulled up to my door. The driver brought in two large boxes of food. There was everything in those boxes for a Christmas dinner. A turkey, stuffing, bread, butter, potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, candy, cookies and so much more. Who in the world had been so generous?
I asked the cab driver who had sent the boxes, but he said he didn't know. He had been called to a local grocery store and a man had asked him to deliver the boxes to my address. The man hadn't given him a name and the cab driver really didn't understand it. "He looked like a street person," he told me.
As I put the food away, I remembered something that Grandma had told me. "Always be kind to strangers, as you may be entertaining angels unaware."
As I thought of my grandmother's words, shivers ran along my spine. Had the old man been an angel? I believe he was. Whether a heavenly angel in disguise or an earthly angel, he provided our family with a wonderful Christmas feast.
As Christmas approaches each year, I think about my Christmas angel and wonder where he is and who he's helping this year. I certainly hope that whoever it is appreciates his gift as much as my daughter and I did so many years ago.