“Merry Christmas,” Nola said as she sat cross legged on the dirt floor of their tent, peeling an orange for her doll. It was the one beloved toy she had managed to save, stuffed under her t-shirt quickly as her mother scooped her from the bed. They ran out and up minutes before the worst of the water hit, thanks to her mom’s willingness to abandon everything but their lives. Now they had nothing but their lives and a tent.
In the square, a local man whose family had not been so lucky, worked the previous day gathering bits of string and wire from the trash. He fixed one end of the bits of string to the trunk of a tree, just above his head, and the other end to the ground in a circle about an arm’s length out from the base. He spent Christmas Eve begging from passing motorists, the few lesser damaged homes and shops, local churches and even aid workers.
All night he worked, fastening bits of the wire onto everything he collected, whether it was given to him begrudgingly or in kindness. By the time the sun was starting to come up Christmas day he finished hanging each token from the string. The sunrise sparkled through bottles of water, off oranges, made the bananas seem bright yellow again, reflected in the face of a few coins and disguised the dirt that clung to the colorful pieces of cloth he’d added to finish the Christmas tree.
Nola stared in awe with eyes as big as empty saucers as the other tent dwelling children gathered around the tree. When the local man stepped back, inviting them each to step in for a present, her eyes lit up and a Christmas smile replaced the open mouth.