A Christmas parable

My Christmas message this year came from a most unexpected source — a tabloid article. And the preacher of this most unusual sermon came from a little security kiosk outside an exclusive up-market apartment complex. Debu Kumar, a security guard at the gates of this kingdom responded to the message of ‘peace on earth, goodwill to all men’ amidst the din of urban noise, through his simple act of kindness. To retell the story, an elderly man, wandered in the dead of night, lost and cold with not a memory to keep him warm, to the ostentatious but menacing gates of this gated community. Debu Kumar, only saw an elderly man who insisted his family lived in one of the apartments behind the gates. Debu had a choice to call the secretary of the owners’ association, the police or turn him out by force. He exercised none of these ‘innkeeper’ choices but did something that recalled the whole Christmas story and message in very simple terms. He took the lost and cold, old man into his little kiosk, gave him a hot cup of tea and a blanket and gave him his ‘stable’ to sleep in. A Christmas parable was born that night!

Debu challenged my ‘innkeeper’ mentality. We set boundaries of the ‘who’s who’; we have rules of inclusion into our tight circles; we define and label according to ‘perceived’ norms of acceptability and we constantly reject anything or anyone who disturbs our comfort zone with a dismissive ‘No room! No room!’ Debu said, he thought what was more important than anything else was to keep ‘the lost man with no name covered,warm and safe.’

Debu’s response reverberated through other echoes in my mind — a French folk tale about Papa Panov’s Special Christmas, retold by Leo Tolstoy. Papa Panov waited through Christmas day for his promised guest, while going about his day, helping and feeding the poor, the cold and the hungry. At the end of the story, his divine visitor revealed that he had indeed visited the shoe maker in the persons Papa Panov had fed, clothed and warmed. The two stories merged to recharge my view that Christmas is not a season but a belief, a creed to live by everyday.

Today Christmas is viewed as a season of good cheer for ourselves but Christmas in the truest sense of the word is about  ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men...’ specially men and women who are unloved, lost and unlovable, by modern standards. It must have been hard for Debu to think differently and embrace the moment, as he too was just as much an outsider as the stranger at the gates. He was willing to take a risk and open the door of his humble abode to a stranger with no memory. He was compassionate and opened his heart to love and understanding, acceptance and kindness to the lost wanderer.

Debu was no social worker, or rich do-gooder or someone embracing the seasonal attitude. He was just a good human being, a Good Samaritan! Or he might have just been an angel signifying the Christmas message.

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