An Unexpected Lesson

“An Unexpected Lesson,” Liahona, Dec. 2008, 47

An Unexpected Lesson

After making a career move to New York City, I was out shopping one December evening for items for my new apartment. A storm had recently hit the city, and knee-deep snow lined the streets. I was bundled up in a warm down coat as I made my way to the train with a bustling crowd of holiday shoppers.

I waited impatiently for the train to arrive, thinking about my shopping list. When the train finally arrived, I stepped onto the car, scanning the seats for a place to sit. The nearest seat was directly across from an old homeless man. He had no warm coat or heavy clothing. He just had some plastic bags filled with trinkets.

I did not want to sit near his offensive odor, and his rugged appearance made me wonder if he was dangerous. Mostly, I did not want to be hit up for cash. I abruptly walked to the other end of the car and took a seat. All the other passengers also filed to the end of the car, leaving the man alone.

Soon a young man boarded the train and settled down in the seat directly in front of the homeless man. Without hesitation, the young man extended a welcoming smile, a handshake, and a jolly hello. The man’s face brightened, and they began a pleasant conversation. They talked for the next 15 minutes, enjoying each other’s company.

As I watched, I was reminded of the true spirit of the Christmas season. While deeply engaged in conversation, the young man stood up and removed his vest, shirt, and a second long-sleeve shirt he was wearing underneath. Standing in his undershirt, he then handed the long-sleeve shirt to the homeless man. The old man accepted it graciously, and the two continued their conversation. I stepped off the train at the next stop, touched by the young man’s kindness. I felt guilty for my selfishness, but I had a desire to be a better person.

The King of kings came into the world in the most humble of circumstances, in a lowly stable. The world was given a precious, saving gift—the Son of God. I am grateful for the gift of the Savior in my life and for the reminder of His infinite love and compassion for God’s children. That Christmas season, I felt a renewed desire to be kinder, more selfless, and more like my Savior, Jesus Christ.