Wednesday, December 16, 2009


When I first moved back to Seattle from Milwaukee (1986), I was shocked at the number of homeless people living on the streets. Many panhandled; others sat silently with signs describing their plights. I felt overcome with sadness as I walked to and from the downtown bus stop, wondering how I could be so lucky to have my health and a job when there was such misfortune in this city.

My boss, a prosperous businessman, was intolerant of the sight of the "beggars" downtown. Once he asked me to use my lunch hour Christmas shopping for him, so he wouldn't ruin his Christmas spirit encountering those "lazy no-goods" sitting on the sidewalk.

I began this poem in 1986 and just finished it this year. Do you know any singers who would like to put it to music?


Once upon a time remembered
A little child was homeless born.
A baby boy without possessions,
Swaddling rags inviting scorn.

I see snowflakes falling gently,
Each one fragile and unique.
I see homeless crouched in doorways,
Hovering there with prospects bleak.

A child today died on the street.
Hundreds more are huddling cold.
Nothing I can do will help them.
No frankincense, no myrrh or gold.

Mary, Joseph, babe in arms,
Bound in love and covenant,
Fled to Egypt seeking haven;
Left their home—itinerant.

I see snowflakes falling gently,
Homeless people young and old.
Curled up tight on bus stop seats
Shivering, frightened, freezing cold.

“Merry Christmas,” says my boss,
But not to beggars on the street.
“Let’s close our doors to celebrate—
Keep it private, keep it sweet.

“City homeless, what a scandal!
It’s not our problem they’ve no food.
Let’s have Christmas pure and merry
And not let ugliness intrude.”

Could we give just from our surplus?
Could we share with them our gold?
Could we be both hope and harbor
For the homeless—hungry, cold?

Help us, Jesus, savior, friend,
Help us, Christ, the lamb and king,
Grant compassion, help us see
Your presence, here, in everything.

I see snowflakes falling gently
I hear church bells in my mind
Help us, Jesus, learn to love them,
Learn compassion and be more kind.

You were homeless and reviled.
Through my tears the snowflakes blur.
You were homeless just like them . . .
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

I see snowflakes falling gently,
Each one fragile and unique.
I hear church bells in my mind,
Ringing in the night’s mystique.

Gold and frankincense and myrrh,
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

© 2009 by Sara J. Glerum
All rights reserved. Electronic version published 2009

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Every year the day after Thanksgiving I change preset number five on the radio of my car. I give up my classical station (okay I try to listen to it from time to time) and punch in the local station that does 24 hours a day of Christmas Carols. As I flip through my presets during my commute I always pause on that station hoping for one of the "good carols". I have to say this year, I'm pretty sure I have only heard the same five songs, and none of them fit in my definition of the "good carols". What are the good carols? Well that's easy - any of the classics we sang as kids in PUBLIC school at the annual Christmas concert, of course the 1984 Band-Aid "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and my favorite "Little Drummer Boy" Sung by Bing and Bowie. In 2001 a few months after the 9/11 twin tower tragedy, I was in New York. I made a point to go down to ground zero and walk the perimeter of the grounds. It was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. It was still a raw scene with emotion everywhere. I remember walking by a makeshift memorial and hearing Bing and Bowie singing: " A newborn King, Peace on Earth..." I cannot hear that song without goosebumps and tears to this day. It takes me to that fateful morning in September. Now I've read your poem, and Mom, it goes in the "good one" class. I'll think about someone that can put it to music. I'd seek it out on my preset number 5 all season long. Thanks for sharing