white christmas

Just give.

I went to the Social Media Club holiday party last night. The Tribune Company hosted a couple hundred of us in a private event space adjacent to the tower, and the event was catered by Wow Bao, Domino's Pizza and Roti. Bartenders were fixing four signature cocktails — two "Sugar," two "Spice" — and a photographer meandered through the crowd snapping candids that will be all over the Internet by lunchtime.There was a toy drive. I forgot about it.

When I got off the train at Ogilvie, I had 15 minutes to walk a mile and a half to Michigan Avenue. I hate being late. As I salmoned up the sidewalk on Wacker Drive, against the current of commuters headed back to their quiet suburban lives, I nearly knocked a woman over just for standing too far back at a perpendicular crosswalk. I mumbled an apology and rushed on. At Dearborn and Wacker, I saw a homeless woman shaking a plastic cup, shivering even in yesterday's subtropical temperatures. And I thought, I am not this person. I am not the kind of person who lets the holidays' hustle and bustle get the best of her. I never carry money, but I had an apple leftover from lunch that I never ate. So I gave it to her. That woman clearly needed a snack more than I did, and she'd never have known — or cared — that it was an organic Honeycrisp.

I say that not to call attention to how charitable and delicious a person I am. I say it because I never really realized how fantastic it feels to give. I looked her in the eye and apologized for not having money, then held out the Ziploc bag and asked if she wanted a snack. It looked like I'd made her day. And if that's all it takes…

The panel on sending followers into a "tizzy" was still raging, but after tipsifying on free drinks and gorging on catered snacks, I left the event early to head north for the Wilco concert with Tim. And beyond the tinny Christmas music playing through my headphones, I heard someone else's as I hurried down the long staircase to the Red Line.

A string bean of a black man, wearing sunglasses and a Santa hat, was singing "White Christmas." His voice carried over the rumble of the southbound train, and he stopped only briefly to peer down the tunnel for the northbound's light, and thank me after I dropped a dollar into his guitar case. I leaned against a concrete support and danced as he played. I'm always so surprised at the talent that never even makes it above ground. Most people walked right past him, but between songs, he addressed the station like a captive, enraptured audience. He talked about Christmas not just being about the presents, about swallowing our pride and giving to those in need. He wasn't just a busker; he was a preacher. His next song was about remembering others during Christmas:

"What did you get last Christmas? Did it make you feel good in your heart?"

Today, Tim and I are going to Target to shop for a little girl I "adopted" for a benefit for the Marcy-Newberry Association. She's only a year old and already has to depend on charity for gifts on Christmas. I don't have a lot of money right now — okay, I'm totally in the red — but with that song in my heart, a little extra crimson on the balance sheet just matters a little less.