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I know that this is an unusual title for a Christmas story…..

I am also quite aware that there are those here in the town I live in that have sought to destroy me and to take my life, will conclude that this story is about them.

But this Christmas you can’t have one without the other and if you are still wondering how this all weaves together.

Then you will have to read on and find out for yourselves

Most if not all of you readers are blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations I have endured since August of 2017 when a group of cowards, liars and slanderers sought out my destruction.

Many of those who are participating in this conspiracy actually wear “I (Heart) Jesus” shirts and are in church every Sunday…..

EDITORS NOTE: Regardless of what those people say or “Preach”…..

The closest those people will come to know any Jesus is when they watch the Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman next year.

I have been shunned in this community at the behest of some “leaders” in the city and county and additionally I am not welcomed in some churches here to include the one I had attended regularly.

These pillars of the community elected to high offices, the fine upstanding churches, and far too many of the righteous church goers are some of the worse people I have ever encountered.

I have heard some people say…..

“That’s how it’s done on the mountain up here; I guess you made the wrong people mad”

That from a law enforcement official….

I have also heard “You ain’t from here” and you know what?

I am damn glad I am not from “here” or I would be ashamed

They have shot at me in the dark, figuratively and literally and threatened the life of myself and “Doc” the Black Lab on numerous occasions for over a year, all the while hiding, lurking, harassing, you know, like the cowards that they are.

If I sound angry or bitter, I am not. I pity those people because they have no conscience.

They don’t see themselves or their actions as doing anything wrong.

They relish in the wanton destruction of other human beings

They enjoy their lies and deception

Now in the event, any of those people read this and are somehow offended by the accurate description I have portrayed of them, then might I suggest you take a good look at yourselves in the mirror.

Their actions have been destructive to me in many ways

The inability to gain employment, my health and the cancer I am still fighting and my finances have all suffered mightily from their attack on me. There is no denying that all of that is true.

So that brings us to this Christmas doesn’t it?

I have been the Bicycle Elf for the Big Oak Ranch for six years…….

Six Years…….

In the event you don’t know what that actually is….

I take specific orders from children at a ranch for abused boys and girls for bicycles, tricycles, big wheels etc (All with matching helmets, the works) and take those brand new items to the Big Oak Ranch for the house parents of the children to deliver to them on Christmas.

I am just the middle Elf in this operation if you will……

Until last year, I haven’t needed any help and have paid for it all out of my pocket, because that was what I was supposed to do.

But fortunately last year due to the kindness of some dear friends I was able to make my Elf Mission Complete, all with Junior Bicycle Elf (Doc) by my side.

That is simply not the case this year…..

EDITORS NOTE: So while you good people “here” sought my destruction there are eighty to a hundred children that won’t have something for Christmas this year.

Congratulations….

Bet they don’t even feel bad about it either……

The fact that I couldn’t be the Bicycle Elf this year has bothered me greatly….

To the point I couldn’t really talk about it.

I just accepted it as another casualty in the ongoing War with the Hillbilly Taliban.

Because that is exactly what they are, except I have far more respect for the real Taliban.

Then it hit me like a bolt of lightening…

It’s the first week in December and there is no place that is more near and dear to my heart than Fredericksburg Virginia this time of year.

The Old Town is decorated and it harkens back to simpler times in the historic city.

It was there many years ago I went on up to Marye’s Heights before the sun came up on the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg to listen for the ghosts of days gone by.

EDITORS NOTE: I know I am weird you don’t have to remind me….

It was excruciatingly cold that morning when I came down from the hills above the town and that was when I saw her. She was an older lady and she was huddled in a doorway of a shop that had closed long ago, she was there to get out of the cold wind that was blasting down the street.

I talked with her, I hugged her and I got her a cup of coffee and helped her from the cold.

I admit it, I never really noticed homeless people in cold places before and I am ashamed to admit that, but it’s true.

That Christmas I jumped fences to make my way to several homeless camps in the area to bring them something warm to wear, a warm meal and listen to them, just listen to them.

EDITORS NOTE:
In case you were wondering the Marine Corps Supply System still wants to contact Clint Eastwood for all the cold weather gear he signed for that Christmas.

I even wrote a story about it all and it appeared in the Editorials and on the front page of the Fredericksburg Star newspaper that Christmas.

I can do that again, I thought to myself.

I can help the helpless; I can do that much this Christmas.

So I started making calls here locally to find out how I can help the homeless.

When I told some churches my name they interrupted me with

“We know who you are and we don’t want your help”

(Click they hung up on me…)

Another called me an enabler because I shouldn’t be helping homeless people

EDITORS NOTE: That’s some Love for your fellow man right there folks….

One place that is supposed to specialize in helping the homeless told me…..

“If they want help then they need to drive down here”

EDITORS NOTE: Boy am I ever glad I am not from here…..

So I reached back in my memory from another time in another place in Chattanooga ….

When a Preacher (a real one, not like many of the fake ones in this town) and I, a black man and a white Marine took on hopelessness and despair in one of the most downtrodden parts of Chattanooga Tennessee and won.

You can’t beat that combination, no matter how hard you try, you can’t beat it.

I called my Old Friend…….

His son is now in charge of this particular ministry and my friend just assists with some of the very same programs we started together many years ago.

I told him all about the dilemma I was facing and what I wanted to do….

And as we talked I couldn’t help but realize the irony in all of this

I live in a place where nearly everybody looks like me, same skin color etc

Yet I am not accepted by them, in fact I am rejected and shunned by them.

I don’t look like anyone in that part of Chattanooga, yet I am loved and treated like a brother and accepted with open arms and did I mention that I am loved and feel loved?

My Brother in Christ and I put together a plan right then, over the phone.

He told me there would be some rough people there, people with mental problems.

He assured me we would pray together before I checked the areas out.

I went down to the Bethlehem Community Project near Howard High School in Chattanooga this past week and I was treated like a long lost brother.

When I walked into the building I was hugged by people I didn’t even know.

I hugged my Old Friends thick neck and shook hands with his son…..

In a word, it was wonderful to feel loved, accepted and worthy of their affection.

My Friend wanted to know all about my tribulations and trials…

I told him everything as he nodded and occasionally looked over at his son.

When I finished telling him and then told him about the Bicycle Elf and my plan for this year my friend smiled and reached over and squeezed my shoulder with one of his hands that is the size of a bear’s paw and said…..

“Brother, the darkness will never overcome the Light, believe it”

The three of us talked some more and I got directions to the three locations “Doc” the Black Lab and I were going to see the next two days. We prayed together and off I went to the first location.

I wanted to see the camps for myself, talk to the people there and see what they needed and not just drop off some needed items and drive on to the next location.

It was cold, rainy and nasty outside, but I knew exactly where the first camp was located as I have driven over that bridge near a construction site each time “Doc” the Black Lab has a visit with his Veterinarian, Dr. Bruce.

I pulled slightly off the side of the road near the bridge, left Doc in the vehicle with instructions not to use the cell phone or play with the radio. I walked the short distance and I didn’t want to startle anyone so I announced myself as I made my way down the bank of the creek underneath the bridge.

Everyone looked at me, just looked at me….

I introduced myself and explained the purpose of my visit to alleviate their fears and that I wasn’t there to do them harm or make them leave.

When I said “Christmas” all but one person came over to shake my hand or just pat me on the back and they all said “Thank you”.

After I had shaken hands with seventeen people, both men and women, I noticed a painfully thin young black man setting alone off to the side.

I walked over to him, stuck out my hand to introduce myself and he interrupted me…

“You don’t want to get near me, I have AIDS”

I told him my name and I grasped his hand to shake it and then I hugged him

Through his tears he said his name was Ben and that he hadn’t been held or hugged in a very long time because people were afraid of him because of his disease.

I told him I wasn’t afraid and that it’s going to be alright.

I held Ben as he wept on my shoulder for nearly twenty minutes.

I gave him my handkerchief and told him that he was loved and that I loved him too.

I told them all I needed to know what they needed for Christmas

So I got the little green Marine Corps notebook out of my pocket and began taking notes of the needed necessities this little group of people needed.

This lady, elderly, bent over at the waist and frail, smiled a toothless smile at me asked

“Are you my Christmas Angel?”

I am glad I had that little notebook to occupy myself with because I was ready to cry.

I quickly told her, “Yes ma’am I most certainly am”

I asked her name and what she wanted for Christmas…..

She said, her name is Ellen and that she would like to have a cupcake.

A cupcake….

A single cupcake was all this woman wanted for Christmas.

Someone behind me shouted, “Can I have a pack of gum?”

I wrote everything down

An Army Vietnam Veteran and who showed me his VA Card to prove it introduced himself as “Red” and asked if I could give him a haircut and a something to shave with when I returned.

“Yes sir, I got you covered” I told him

Red looked down and said “I am no sir; you don’t need to call me that.”

I said “O’ Yes sir I most certainly do, it’s out of respect.”

There were hugs, tears and handshakes as I told them I will see them next week.

I left them a propane heater with plenty of fuel until next week

I had two other places to visit the next day, but at least I had part of a plan.

I knew one thing I would have to do….

I would have to dig out my two combat medical kits to administer some badly needed first aid to these folks, which is funny since I once was a Doctor for an entire week at a Conference (See the wonderful book Sunnyside Up by yours truly for details) but here I was going to be Doctoring for real this next week.

Also Toothbrushes and toothpaste, Baby Wipes, Soap……

Tarps, cords, and I have enough cold weather gear to outfit a small detachment of Marines, with hats, pants, socks, coats and gloves etc.

Like I said, Clint Eastwood will be a in a lot of trouble once the Marine Corps Supply System catches up with him.

But the “real” plan, the “Actual Real” plan didn’t come into focus until later that night, when I called my dear friend and partner in crime Hank to discuss the day’s events.

He suggested using my crab pots and cooking Ramen Noodles in it with an egg like we did in the Marine Corps and his other suggestions were equally as good if not better.

The following day “Doc” the Black Lab and I loaded up and off we went….

Crab pots and cooking stoves, food and water for cooking

As I drove to the first location of the day I couldn’t help but think

These people are shunned, rejected and looked down upon, just like me.

The circumstances are clearly different between us, but the feelings and the effects of that treatment are the same to each of us, the hurt and pain of rejection are difficult to retain as are the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

But we can change all that even for just a brief moment in time, can’t we?

The same scene was repeated at the second homeless encampment….

An elderly lady told me her husband had died some time ago and she lost her house and she didn’t have any family that she could live with, so she ended up here.

A man who I thought was around fifty years old told me that he was thirty years old…

His name is Troy

He had some speech problems and is mentally handicapped.

He said his Mommy and Daddy took care of him until they died in a car wreck.

He told me that he loved his Mommy and Daddy

He said his other “family” dropped him off on the road some time ago because they didn’t want him and didn’t want to take care of him.

When I said the word “Christmas” to Troy his eyes lit up and he stammered

“Can I have a Christmas Tree?”

“Yes sir, you most certainly can have a Christmas tree”

Troy asked about Doc in the vehicle and asked me “IF” he could see him

I went to the vehicle and let Doc the Black Lab out, and he ran right to Troy.

Troy and Doc loved on each other the entire time until I left.

I took other notes and requests and talked with them all and listened to their stories.

Then I went and got the cook pot, food and stove out of the vehicle and started to prepare lunch for the group of eleven.

Someone behind me asked what I was doing…..

I told them I was making them lunch and that I was here to serve them

You may not know this but I have never been carried off the football field on the shoulders of my teammates as the hero of any game I played in, but I was hugged so hard in that moment by the entire group that I now know exactly what that feels like.

They gathered around that cook pot as I stirred the Ramen Noodles and added eggs as if I was serving them the finest meal in New York City.

I had reusable cups and spoons for everyone and I served them all…..

It was beautiful to see

After lunch as I was ready to go to the next location, but an elderly lady asked if I would look at her foot before I left because it was bothering her.

I could barely get her dirty shoes off….

Her feet were in bad shape being so wet, for so long.

I knew that she needed to have her feet cleaned and that I would need to trim her toenails, so I made another note in my little green notebook about what I would need to treat her upon my return.

As I rubbed her feet to get the circulation back, she patted the hat on my head.

Thank you, thank you she whispered over and over again as she patted me

I left the cooking pot, the stove and the propane and told them I would see them later

It was time for Doc and I to go to the next location….

The third and final location of the day, I fired up another cooking pot and served them all a late lunch and the scene was repeated with each one telling their story as I took wrote in my notebook their wants and especially their needs.

In two days….

No one asked me for any money….

Nobody asked for alcohol of any sort….

No one asked me for anything really

They just appreciated my time and care and listening ear.

Because everybody has a story to tell, everybody wants to be listened too.

I will have a follow on story after Christmas because I will be spending a day at each location before and during Christmas and before you ask, there will be food, medical care, and everybody is getting a Christmas tree along with warm weather gear, clothes etc and one beautiful lady is getting the cupcake she wanted too.

So what is the moral to this story?

It’s not how I have been treated and the trials I continue to endure where I live

It is exactly what my dear friend and Christian Brother in Chattanooga said….

“Brother, the darkness will never overcome the Light, believe it”

The people where I live would do well to remember that

But in the meantime, Doc the Black Lab and I are bringing the light to the darkness this Christmas in our own small way and I would encourage you all to identify some darkness around you and let your love light shine upon it.

You can change the world

Merry Christmas

RTR
MEB