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A Woman's Journal


Safe in the Arms of Comfort

By Maggie Turner

December 24, 1999

Safe in the Arms of Comfort

They have all gone Christmas shopping. I regard myself as quite courageous; the Christmas present purchased in the adrenaline rush on Christmas Eve day is usually for me. In a moment of panic, they might snatch any old thing from the dwindling gifts on offer for sale. It is possible that all of the good stuff will be gone. However, I have faith. I have not been disappointed yet.

One cup of coffee down, second cup of tea in hand, I sit during a lull in the day's activities. I have a list; it is a short list. Already I have crossed two items off my list of things to do today. The most important was to wrap Attila's Christmas present. The difficulty has been that he seems never to be there just when I need him and always there when I definitely do not. He is shopping and I am here alone, the deed is done.

Today I give a thought for those who are not safe in the arms of comfort. Where I live, the authorities give the homeless bus tickets out of town. Consequently there are no daily reminders here of the depth of poverty that exists.

Many years ago, I was a single mother living in a large city. There were many homeless people living on the streets around us, luckily we were well housed and fed. My children and I were isolated. I felt particularly alone in the world one Christmas in the big cold city. At the end of the last day of school before the Christmas holiday, I walked the snowy city blocks to my daughter's school. As I waited for her on the sidewalk in front of the school, I found myself staring at the big house across the street; it had barred windows. It was a fortress, bars, steel doors, flood lights and observation cameras. Unseen inside the house, wrapped in safety, were bruised and battered women and children. This house was a shelter for battered women and their children. I found it very hard to feel sorry for myself while standing so close to violence with impunity.

Later that night after the children were asleep, I slipped out of the house and walked through the quiet, tree lined streets to the shelter. I rang the doorbell, a little door in the door opened and a face appeared, protected by heavy wire mesh.

"Yes?" she said with a guarded voice, despite the fact that I was a solitary female figure in the dark night.

"I have a bit of money I'd like to give the shelter." I said, "May I donate it here?"

"Yes," she replied, still cautious, "just put it through the slot in the door."

The door in the door slammed firmly shut. I put the envelope through the slot; it contained a check for the last bit of money in my savings account. That was it, the steel door, and snowflakes drifting slowly to the ground through the harsh glow of the floodlights. I stood there for a while collecting myself. At first, I was disappointed; I would have welcomed human warmth that night. Still, I was on the outside. As the conviction of my own good luck grew within me the warmth I craved wrapped its arms around me and carried me home.

Each candle I light tonight, on Christmas Eve, will burn bright with the silent prayer that all God's creatures might live safe in the arms of comfort.



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