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A Christmas Story

December 24, 2021

From time to time, I like to share a true story from my past in the hope that it might stay with you as it has with me for so many years.

The year was 1966. I had graduated Sylmar High School that summer and I was working a part-time job with Sears Roebuck in San Fernando, California during the Christmas season. Actually, it was a very small store and I had been promoted to Hardware Manager a month before even though I was only a part-time employee. I had already enrolled in San Fernando Valley State College (Now University of California at Northridge) and had started my freshman classes in September. My schedule was extremely busy between working and my classes, so much so that I was often exhausted.

I went to school during the days and worked nights. I usually helped close the store around 9 PM and found myself in need of a late-night meal, having usually skipped lunch at school. That usually consisted of Taco Bell because the entrees were only 15 cents in those days. However, recently a friend of mine had become employed with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). I would often opt to drop by and see my friend because in those days they had to throw out the unsold prepared products each night at closing. I was regularly treated to free buckets of chicken and plenty of mashed potatoes.

One night a couple of days before Christmas, I stopped to see my friend. I always parked in the back as not to bother any late patrons. On that particular night, I found a man in the dumpster attempting to gather some half-eaten food. He was dressed in an old, tattered business suit and didn’t look the type who would be scrounging a meal. I didn’t say anything to him at first and just went inside to see my friend.

My friend said that I was in luck because there was lots of leftover chicken that night. I told him that  was great but then I told him about the man in the dumpster. Without a word between us, we gathered all that leftover chicken into two buckets. I sprang for the coffee and pie and we ported the whole feast to an empty table. At this point all the patrons had left. My friend turned the outside lights off.  We then went out back to find this man now standing, looking bewildered at not finding anything to eat in the dumpster.

We invited him inside for a meal. At first he refused. I could see that he had a lot of pride and didn’t want charity. I assured him that that wasn’t the case and that we were going to sit down for dinner ourselves anyway. He finally agreed and joined us inside. I have never seen anyone inhale a bucket of chicken as quickly. He splashed it down with multiple cups of coffee, mashed potatoes, and of course the pie.

My friend and I just sat there and watched. We didn’t pry. The man felt self conscious I guess and so he felt he needed to supply us with an explanation. The gist of it was that he had lost his job as a salesman about a month before, had no family and had been living on the streets of San Fernando and looking or food in dumpsters every night since. He added uncomfortably that he wasn’t always that way. Misfortune had handed him a severe blow and he felt he would be back on his feet shortly. I honestly forget so many of the details because by the time he finished only half of his story I was in tears.

At last the meal was done. He shook both of our hands and said, “Bless you both.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the last 11 cents he had and insisted that we take it in payment for the meal. As he went through the door and faded into the night, he murmured, “Merry Christmas.”

I never did see that man again and I don’t know where his fortunes ended. I do know that our meeting served as a reminder of my good fortune and humanity that has lasted my entire life. The man in the tattered suit: His memory is always present at Christmas.

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Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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17 Comments
  1. Great story, Allen. Inspirational!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. peggy bennett permalink

    that was heart warming thanks for shareing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful story, Allen. Happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Compliments. You did good. That was a long time ago but if the man is still alive I’m sure he remembers.
    Buon Natale.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story, Allen. I can imagine how you would recall this each year. A true spirit of Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Joy Neal Kidney and commented:
    What a compelling Christmas memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a compelling Christmas memory!

    Liked by 1 person

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