He glared with disdain at the old tin can
held up with hope by a dirty old man
whose eyes were too shiny, his nose was too red,
telling a tale with words unsaid,
and the young man turned with a disgusted frown
staring the old man up and down,
Then he said, “I have better things to do
than to hand out my money to a bum like you.
There’s work out there, why don’t you get some
instead of sitting here like a dirty old bum?
I’ve worked hard for the money I have
and I’ve earned my right to the way I live
so I’m not about to throw my money away
to a guy who sits on the street all day.
You’ve made your choices, I’ve made mine
and I’m not gonna pay for your whiskey or wine.”
He spun on his heel, about to leave.
No drunk was going to ruin his Christmas Eve.
His sweetheart was waiting and man, was she sweet!
So why was he talking to this bum on the street?
In another few hours he’d be whisked away
‘neath a blanket of stars, by a horse and sleigh,
snuggled beneath shawls, a hot drink in hand
with sleigh-bells a-jingling. Oh, isn’t love grand?
He turned and began to walk away
but paused as he heard the old man say,
“I was a young pup once like you
and I guess I know why you feel like you do
but until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes
I beg to differ about ‘your right to choose’.
Sometimes you gotta take what you rather would not,
and you’d do anything to trade the hand ya’ got”
The old man’s voice grew a little hoarse
as he ran his fingers through hair long and coarse.
“Yes, I remember it all real well
I had dreams, held the world by the tail.
I loved a sweet lady and she loved me
an’ we were as happy as anyone could be.
Oh, the happiest day of my entire life
was the day that sweet lady became my wife,
and the second best days I ever had
were the three great times I became a dad.
With each new little baby’s birth
we added a corner to our ‘heaven on earth’.
Our days were numbered, but we didn’t know.
We were as happy as anyone here below
until one day an old drunk ended my life
when he killed my three babies and my wife.
So, before you talk choices like winnin’ and losin’,
That we become what we are by our own choosin’,
I’d like to ask you, have you lived alone
after your ‘heaven on earth’ was gone?
Have you sat in the darkness, your 'now ever-after'
listening to the silence echo your baby’s laughter,
and still hear the voices of your precious darlings
or close your eyes to still see them smiling?
Have you heard your wife’s voice calling you
to waken alone and cry all night through?
Then, in a desperate effort to make your thoughts end
have wine or whiskey become your best friend?
Have you gone to work where they locked the door
saying, ‘you don’t work here any more’?
You may call me a bum but before you do
would you like to walk a mile in my shoes?”
The young man was speechless, what more could he say
to this man who suffered more loss in one day
than most people suffer their whole life through?
Words seemed empty from this point of view.
This was no bum, but a lonely old soul
Who, under life’s sorrow simply lost control.
His teardrops fell as he stared at his feet
then he sat down beside the old man on the street.
“Forgive me” he wept to the dirty old man,
“Oh, please forgive me if you can.
For I am the bum, the most ignorant of fools.
What do I know about any of life’s rules?
I’d fill up your can twenty times if I could
but I really don’t think it would do any good.
Far better than money, for you I believe
would be somewhere to come home to this Christmas Eve”
So, there in the cold ‘neath the streetlamps glow
sat the young man with the old in the falling snow,
as the angels looked down from heaven above
Smiling at the pair in tender love
-a young man who would never, ever choose
To walk a mile in the old man’s shoes
Slowly they both arose to their feet
and arm in arm, they walked up the street
(last verse optional)
So before we call anyone a drunk or a bum,
Perhaps we should ask them from where they have come
instead of judging, lend them an ear
and we might be appalled at the stories we hear.
God, give mercy to the poor on the street.
Their stories are the tears that the angels weep.
Shine your love on them and show them the reason
we all may have hope this Christmas Season.
All Rights Reserved
This poem was inspired by a tragic story on the news...
and spawned the poem below.
I've often wondered what became of that man, a jeweler whose wife and kids were killed by a drunk driver.