Homeless for the Holidays by Micki Peluso

Christmas carols waft through the crisp Manhattan air as the steady ringing of the bells of Salvation Army Santas sets the pace for shoppers hustling from store to store. The magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas tree heralds the promise of Yuletide celebrations ushering in the season of love and joy.
But for thousands of homeless people in New York city, the season is a harbinger of struggle. Huddled in alleyways, bus terminals, doorways and other temporary hovels, attempting to ease the chill of winter, they find no joy. Some keep their faces to the ground, too hungry and lethargic to honor the Christ child’s birth. Others glance upward, perhaps searching for a special star to offer solace to a life of misery, but more likely hoping for handouts–a dollar or two to stem the ever-present gnawing of a tortured empty stomach. Years ago, it was a nickel, but inflation has reached the street people as well. New York City with the highest population in the country, also has one of the largest number of people for whom Christmas is just another exercise in survival.
Perhaps it is the fear of ‘Except for the grace of God go I’, mentality that keeps us from recognizing them or addressing the biblical question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Now that the holidays are upon us it’s a good time to reconsider our priorities. We live in a country of great contrasts; from the extremely wealthy through the middle class to the struggling lower class. Not enough of us consider the ‘no’ class, the people who have nothing; because acknowledging the problem necessitates a resolution.
Still, the day after Christmas there will be those who will ponder, like in the old Peggy Lee song, ‘Is that all there is?’ Too often Christ is removed from Christmas and we sense, but cannot name, the hollow feeling left after the frantic rush to make one day memorable. The homeless, hunched around garbage can fires, or sleeping over subway grates to catch the warmth of a passing train, do not have the luxury of such contemplation.
As our world grows smaller, the plight of the homeless becomes a global concern, bringing crime, disease and poverty to our doors. No one appreciates a guilt trip during the Christmas season, and no one wants visions of starving people interrupting the Holiday feast, overflowing with homemade delicacies, cookies and candy canes hanging from decorated trees. We work for what we have, ever harder in this sluggish economy and we deserve the rewards of our labors. True. But in the spirit of Christmas it is important to remember that over 2000 years ago, the Christ child lay in a manure-filled stable in Bethlehem, on a straw mattress of questionable cleanliness, wrapped in swaddling clothes that did not come from Macy’s.
Emphasis today weighs heavily upon material gifts. Charge cards promote a gluttony of expenditure that has little to do with the meaning of Christmas. The legendary Little Drummer Boy had nothing but a song to offer the new-born babe. That gift was cherished more then the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by the wise men from the East, because it was a gift of pure love.
This season let us all think about how much we have, and how fortunate we are to be spending the holidays with loved ones instead of a damp, freezing floor in Grand Central Station. Above all, let us love one another. And if we can extend that love to the homeless street people, the next holiday season may witness a practical solution to our mutual shame. Love is a self-perpetuating emotion; and all it takes to activate it is to exchange it among ourselves. Merry Christmas!

Micki Peluso started writing as a response to grief. . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG, which won the Nesta CBC silver award for writing that makes a change in the world, shares the story of her daughter’s death and the family’s movement towards recovery. Since then Micki has written humor, horror, and much more. Read more about her at http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Reddit

16 thoughts on “Homeless for the Holidays by Micki Peluso

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I was very proud of my adopted hometown of Phoenix, AZ when I recently learned that the city has met its goal of having no more homeless vets. Places have been found for all of them. Now it only leaves us all the rest of our homeless to consider. It seems so wrong that we, or any nation, can have so much wealth, spend so much on war and controlling people, and ignore those among us who are the most needy.

  2. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    Beautiful, and yes we should practice it among ourselves and reach out to someone less fortunate! Do all that we can, and advocate for more systmes to be put in place for all.

  3. Diane Piron-Gelman

    What you say is so true. So many of us have so much, and it’s all too easy to forget those who have little or nothing. Yet if we all remembered just a little bit better and took some action, however small, to alleviate the suffering of others, we would live in a much brighter world.

  4. Cherrye S. Vasquez


    This is a piece that I wish people could read world-wide. It is also one that I’d love for so many of us to re-visit from time to time.

    It is loaded with “food for thought” messages.

    We could do so much more to help those in need while teaching them to “pull-up” and make wiser choices, too. Let us not forget less we fall victim ourselves.

    There is a thin line between sanity and insanity, have and have-nots.

    Oh, let us pray for a better tomorrow!

  5. Sharla

    Micki, you have hit home with such a grave problem in our society, of course, not only here in America but unfortunately worldwide. Any person and any given point in time could find themselves homeless. It has happened, it can happen. The worst cases to me are the homeless veterans. I cannot understand how/why America does not have a system in place to take care of those who make so many sacrifices for our country. There is so much wastefulness that could be easily channeled in the right direction. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt story that needs to be shared over and over again. This is an issue that does not occur just at Christmas time.

  6. Yves Johnson

    You’re so right. As our world grows smaller, we should be more aware of those who are in need. Many of us are having a wonderful time on this blessed day. However, for some this isn’t the case. Thank you for this stark reminder. Prayerfully we all can do a little more in 2014 to make life a little easier for others.

  7. James L. Secor

    And why is it, Micki, that so many of us only think of the homeless, the poor, the less fortunate flotsam of the affluent society at this time of year? As, too, why is it we only think of breast cancer in October and celebrate by wearing pink ribbons? Why is it, too, that the most vociferous about the religious aspect of Xmas are gung-ho for war and destruction? Self-aggrandizing hypocrisy: the reason I detest this holiday “season.” But…isn’t it the same everwhere? Put the downside of life out of mind but for once a year. So, yeah, Micki, now…and every day of the year. No sentimentality, no squushy-wushy emotional contortion, no guilt trips–do something. It begins in our community. Man’s inhumanity to man.

  8. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    So true, and so universal. It’s not just America but the whole world that does not take proper care of all its people. In Argentina, the State has resigned its duties to the underprivileged and left their fate in the hands of society. Some of us private citizens make it our concern to work on improving equality; others simply say it’s not their problem. Perhaps Christmas underscores the differences, yet having read James’s comment, I’d just like to second the perfect way in which he has exposed the problem. To address these issues on a special date -of course I don’t mean you but such people as remember the poor, the sick, etc. on a special date and then push them back into existence- should not buy anyone’s peace of mind for the remaining 364 days.

  9. Micki Peluso

    Thank you all for your thoughtful input. Marta and Jim, as a journalist and commentary writer for twenty years and still today online, I wrote of this travesty and so many like it over and over and no one listened. I continually warned of small freedoms being taken away, which would erradicate all freedom–and now we are approaching that time and since it’s written into laws we may lose our freedom forever—simply out of complacency in a time when we could have stopped it.

  10. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Well done to address the issues at hand.

    If we look around, you can always find someone in a position of less wealth be it money, health, family or faith. I’m sad that there are even those out there that beg by the highways using their dogs yet park a block away driving new vehicles and expecting us to help. If only the world would wake up and see that there are the innocent victims truly homeless by no fault of their own and step up in more ways than to just help in the holiday times. Hunger is year round and could happen to any of us.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Patricia Yeager

    Oh Micki, once again you have opened our eyes to what the true meaning of Christmas, Love, honor, and giving is about. Thank you for opening your heart so greatly to all of us. You are a Blessing, and I hope many will abide by your words. I know I will do a better job of caring for others.

    God Bless You Always

  12. James L. Secor

    You know, Patricia (and all), going at the problem in your community is something that is handleable–“the world” or “the country” is a tad overwhelming. My disability work was local and benefits were got, benefits that most non-disabled do not realize are a convenience for them because of the disability community’s needs.
    I was thinking. . .Lawrence, minus students, is around 100,000. If 1 cent could be gotten from everyone for the poor/homeless/destitute et al, that would be $1000 with no stress on anyone’s pocket book. If this was done every month, it would be $12,000. But. . .people tend to think that donation means lots of money at the asking.
    A friend of mind, blind, is a member of a Catholic church just up the road. I read her mail for her–and her husband when he gets any (also blind). She got a newsletter from the church noting that 20-25% of the congregation not only hasn’t donated to the upkeep, etc., of the church or its school but has not bothered to pay their tithes. The priest was very subtle and around-the-cornerish in noting that this included most of the more affluent members. Yea, let me reap the benefits yet do naught.
    Does no one realize, esp, it seems, the affluent, how much it costs them to ignore and, thus, keep the indigent/homeless indigent/homeless?
    It’s bad in my town: the homeless have been very carefully swept out of downtown. First, the US Bank said, no, you can’t have a bus stop right outside our bldg (the side) because of “those people” being bad for business; then the city building a new shelter way the hell out on the southeast side of town just down from the jail.
    Subway throws out all food not use “that” day; Subway refuses to donate the left over food and fires any employee who attempts to get around this policy. Uhh…better to let it rot? Just like the people who need it.
    What is with humanity?

  13. Linda hales

    You’ve surely pulled at our heartstrings with this piece Micki. Your words have addressed a sad reality that has existed in society since the beginning of time and reminds us that we have not really come that far after all. There are many levels of poverty—of mind, body and spirit. Some suffer all three while even the wealthiest among us all too often are in need of the most important one of all…spirit, most especially the spirit of kindness that knows that it knows that it knows that at the end of the day, we most assuredly are meant to be our brother’s keeper. To be fair, many wealthy people share and can well afford to do so, but when I see a person or family who can truly be defined as ‘poor’ in monetary terms, reach out and give to help those who are even less fortunate than themselves, I am witnessing the true and humble spirit of giving. As a single pensioner, I do struggle to make ends meet but I feel so rich when I stop to count my blessings—the roof that is over my head, food on my table, a few niceties of life in that I get to enjoy my communication with whomever I choose on social media such as on this wonderful writers’ blog and most of all, the soundness of mind to distinguish what true need really is. I try to pick up a few healthy food essentials for the food bank when I grocery shop and I feel that I am at least doing something but want to do so much more. What haunts me though is my fear of venturing out among street culture by myself because there is also a criminal element on the street that threatens safety. In 2014, I must seek out ways and means to do my part, be it volunteering, or even to buy a hot coffee and a sandwich for someone in need because such a meal can be worth a million dollars to someone who is hungry. I am forever reminding myself that family will most always take care of family, but many among us are just a swinging door away from the street.

  14. Martha Love

    Such an important reminder, Micki, and so well written. I also love what James is saying that we need to think of the Homeless all year around and not just at a designated time like Christmas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *