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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Santa Tripped Over Foreclosure (Dec. 2008)

Santa lay sprawled on his back across a driveway, motionless. We saw him as my kids and I were driving back from school, searching for holiday decorations. I backed up to his driveway, and called, “Sir, can I help you?” Santa raised his head and tried to get up, assuring me he was fine but I had to see for myself. He had been pulling out a box of Christmas decorations and fallen backward. Had he hit his head? He didn’t think so.

He was dressed not in red but in a plaid flannel shirt. I expected Santa’s hair and beard to be snowy but as I got closer I saw that they were grayish-white. He was a bit paunchy, and when he smiled, he looked jolly. He introduced himself as Robert, but he looked like St. Nick to me, eyes twinkling when he smiled. I was glad to see that his smile was symmetrical, which meant he hadn’t had a stroke. He was focused on Christmas lights and I was worrying about his health. I helped him gather items that had fallen to the ground as he had. The large box had held kitchen gadgets, with not a garland or snowman in sight. We reassembled the box as he apologized for the messy contents of his open garage. Gesturing behind him, he said, “I was getting decorations down for my mom. Actually, we may have to move soon. Mom refinanced and took out an ARM loan, and we can’t afford it now.” Robert looked to be at least 60, putting his mom in her 80s. I couldn’t imagine an octogenarian having to move a house-worth of stuff and a lifetime of memories as the economy sagged over a roof she couldn’t afford anymore. I told Robert I’d think good thoughts for his mom and him, asking again if he was okay. He assured me he was, and we were both on our way.

As I drove home I passed other houses that sat empty, some with “Bank Owned” signs on the lawn. Santa would not be coming down those chimneys this month. As some of my neighbors hang holiday lights from their roofs, other neighbors silently vacate their homes overnight. Countrywide economic troubles are awful any time, but it’s especially upsetting to hear about it from a Santa look-alike, who is hunting for decorations to hang as his mom counts coins to pay the mortgage.

I never know what life is going to show me each day. Robert’s street is not on my way home, so our meeting was pure chance. I’m glad I was able to help him, but he helped me too. His mom’s mortgage woes showed me how fortunate I am, and I’m grateful for the reminder. I’ll remember Robert this holiday season, hoping that he and his mom can keep their home, that a Christmas miracle finds them this season…

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