The 12 Days of Urban Christmas

Wondering how exactly a small act can result in a permanent change in your worldview? Read on to see how it can work:

On the first day of urban Christmas, a street bum said to me, “Got any spare change, buddy?” But I’m not a

Christmas gifts
Image by brungrrl via Flickr

cash hand-out kind of guy, so I put up my collar and sped along. I wrote my check to a charitable donation

that night, but somehow, things still didn’t feel right.

On the second day of urban Christmas, a new homeless woman lay on the sidewalk with a cup out. I heard a passing kid say to his dad, “Will Santa give her a present?” That’s when I knew what was eating at me. I went to a nearby drugstore and bought two $10 gift cards.

On the third day, I gave the gift cards, but I got stuck in a long conversation on the way to work with a homeless guy who followed me down the street, so I learned to drop and nod and speed-walk away. That night, I bought three warm scarves from the Dollar Store. Wrapping them in holiday paper seemed like a bad idea, so I put the new scarves in old plastic bags, and popped inside a gift tag that said From Me, To You. And a little plastic dreidel.

On the fourth day, I felt kind of bad about the hot pink scarf that the old vet got, so I bought four pairs of gloves at Target – all in neutral colors.

On the fifth day of urban Christmas, I got a new idea. Five bungie cords. All in one packet, also from Target. But a bungie cord by itself looked kind of lame. So I bought a big box of individually wrapped Lindt chocolate balls – one treat for nine people, each ball foil-covered and sparkly red.

After I dropped those off, I got inspired, and that’s when things got, well, kind of interesting. Six carabiners clipping. Seven hats for warming. Eight emergency ponchos. Nine reflective blankets. Ten coffee coupons. Eleven bags for hauling. Twelve polartec throws.


A few people on my block have decided to get together and buy the regular guy who searches for recycle-ables on our street a collapsible Ikea metal rolling cart, a sleeping bag, a couple of pairs of sweatpants, and one of those long clamps for picking things out of the trash. Oh, and a pair of fingerless gloves. Maybe he won’t get another bad cut on his hand this month. The kid and his dad are going to do a discreet drop-off.

On the first day of urban New Year, the neighborhood guy said to me, “Got any spare change, buddy?” I gave a hello nod and said, “Mornin,’ Sam. Nice mitts,” before I headed off to work.

The traditional twelve days of Christmas gifts are estimated this year to cost $86,609. In contrast, added together, all of the gifts for the homeless mentioned above (purchased at Target, Ikea, Longs and the Dollar General Store) cost a total of $182, plus an additional $120 for the neighborhood deluxe group-gift. The forthcoming Doc Gurley Second Annual Homeless Gift Guide is the third part of this series. In it, you can also find a $5 budget-gift option and a real-time video demonstration of gift-giving in action.

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