From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

The Christmas Man

When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.

Joseph Campbell

Last Christmas was a very difficult time for me. My family and all of my close friends were back home in Florida, and I was all alone in a rather cold California. I was working too many hours and became very sick.

I was working a double shift at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter, it was about 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve, and I was feeling really miserable inside. There were a few of us working and very few customers waiting to be helped. When it was time for me to call the next person to the counter, I looked out to see the sweetest-looking old man standing with a cane. He walked very slowly over to the counter and in the faintest voice told me that he had to go to New Orleans. I tried to explain to him that there were no more flights that night and that he would have to go in the morning. He looked so confused and very worried. I tried to find out more information by asking if he had a reservation or if he remembered when he was supposed to travel, but he seemed to become more confused with each question. He just kept saying, “She said I have to go to New Orleans.”

After much time, I was able to at least find out that this old man was dropped off at the curb on Christmas Eve by his sister-in-law and told to go to New Orleans, where he had family. She had given him some cash and told him just to go inside and buy a ticket. When I asked if he could come back tomorrow, he said that she was gone and that he had no place to stay. He then said he would wait at the airport until tomorrow. Naturally, I felt a little ashamed. Here I was feeling very sorry for myself about being alone on Christmas, when this angel named Clarence MacDonald was sent to me to remind me of what being alone really meant. It broke my heart.

Immediately, I told him we would get it all straightened out, and our Customer Service agent helped to book him a seat for the earliest flight the next morning. We gave him the senior citizens’ fare, which gave him some extra money for traveling. About this time he started to look very tired, and when I stepped around the counter to ask him if he was all right, I saw that his leg was wrapped in a bandage. He had been standing on it that whole time, holding a plastic bag full of clothes.

I called for a wheelchair. When the wheelchair came, we all stepped around to help him in, and I noticed a small amount of blood on his bandage. I asked how he hurt his leg, and he said that he had just had bypass surgery and an artery was taken from his leg. Can you imagine? This man had had heart surgery, and then shortly afterward, was dropped off at the curb to buy a ticket with no reservation to fly to New Orleans, alone!

I never really had a situation like this, and I wasn’t sure what I could do. I went back to ask my supervisors if we could find a place for him to stay. They both said yes, and they obtained a hotel voucher for Mr. MacDonald for one night and a meal ticket for dinner and breakfast. When I came back out, we got his plastic bag of clothes and cane together and gave the porter a tip to take him downstairs to wait for the airport shuttle. I bent down to explain the hotel, food and itinerary again to Mr. MacDonald, and then patted him on the arm and told him everything would be just fine.

As he left he said, “Thank you,” bent his head and started to cry. I cried too. When I went back to thank my supervisor, she just smiled and said, “I love stories like that. He is your Christmas Man.”

Rachel Dyer Montross

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