The Christmas Blanket
Olson Huff, MD
Following Visit to Edinburgh, 2009
For all, a very Happy Holiday! May this little story remind us of the generosity that lifts all our spirits and defines the best of our lives!
Jefferson was a dozen steps beyond the girl who was huddled under a thin gray blanket as a shield against the chill of the Edinburgh wind, when, impulsively, he turned back and without daring to look into her eyes, thrust his steaming cup of Starbucks coffee and untouched Danish into her cold hands. Turning quickly away, he rejoined the early morning rush of feet, buses, cars and bicycles, all of whom were oblivious to each other and the tiny heap shivering beside them.
“So, Jeff, got your reservations?” Carlton leaned from his cubicle, next to Jefferson’s own workspace, his face wreathed in a happy, carefree smile. “For sure, I’m ready to party! Can’t wait for the warm sun and wild beaches!”
Jefferson tried to laugh, to acknowledge his friend’s greeting and eager anticipation of their long awaited holiday break. He managed only a quick nod in response, distracted by thoughts he could not quite grasp and a gnawing feeling of loneliness that he could neither describe nor locate.
She was there the next day, sitting a bit straighter, eyes still downcast, this time clutching a blanket that had more substance against the cold air and a definite hint of color that seemed somehow to match that of her hair. She seemed not quite so cold even though the temperature had fallen during the night and the wind whipped along Leith Street with its usual bone chilling force. This time, Jefferson was prepared. Holding two cups of coffee and two bags of Danish, part for her and part for his own solitary breakfast, he deposited her share quickly into her outstretched hands. Again he rushed on, a bit embarrassed by his attention to the girl and confused by why he had ever noticed her in the first place.
“Jeff, you OK?” Carlton’s smile was replaced by a frown. “You not backing out on me are you, pal?”
Jefferson shook his head, not attempting to verbalize, yet, something growing in his mind. He had seen the sign, propped in the window of the shop, close to where the girl sat, each morning begging for help, crying for attention.
“Volunteers needed to help prepare Christmas dinner for the homeless,” the sign had read, “details inside.”
Next morning, coffee and Danish ready and several coins in hand, he moved a bit more quickly and eagerly along the wind swept street. He had no trouble spotting her today. The blanket, wrapped around her shoulders was thick and warm and elegant in style with rich deep colors. This time their eyes met and as he gazed at the amazing warmth in them, the feeling of peace around him and the sudden rush of excitement he felt, astounded him. He started to speak to her but was jostled aside by the crowd and distracted by the jingle of her can, seeking more coins and the attention of others.
“Sorry, Carl, old friend, but I have suddenly found another topic for my holiday break, so I won’t be joining you after all.” Jefferson spoke brightly to his friend who responded with a knowing wink and tilt of his head.
“Another sweetie, eh! Well enjoy yourself because I sure plan to!”
Jefferson was up earlier than usual the next day, eager to bring his gifts of money, food and attention to the waif who had commanded so much of his time and thoughts the past few days. Hurrying along, he rounded the corner by the shop, this time prepared to talk to her, to find out who she was and, in doing so, try to understand his uplift of mood that seemed somehow associated with her.
The spot where she had sat, huddled against the wall was empty. Confused, he cast about to see where she might have gone. Nothing. Thinking the shopkeeper may have seen her leave; he opened the door, noticing again the sign asking for volunteers to help feed the homeless.
“Girl?” A puzzled look came over the shopkeepers face. “They ‘ha not been any slip of a lass any where about my shop or this street in many a day.” The man did not speak unkindly but he did look more closely at Jefferson just to make sure the young man was not a bit inebriated, even this early in the morning.
Dazed, Jefferson turned back to the door, unsure of what was happening or what to do next. As he turned the knob to leave, his eye suddenly caught a hint of color in the window next to the sign. It was the blanket, resplendent, warm and inviting. He threw his head back and laughed, a deep explosion of joyful mirth as he understood and as he saw again the eyes of the girl, filled with hope, invitation and promise.
“Count me in,” he said to the shopkeeper, as he pointed to the sign. “And whatever you do, don’t sell that blanket!”
“Couldn’t if I wanted to,” came the reply. “’twas left there ages ago by the prettiest little angel I ever did see. Seems to bring me good luck. Know what I mean?”
And of course, Jefferson knew exactly what he meant.