Same Time Next Year
She wound the tattered scarf tighter around her grey head with one mittened hand and grasped the large blue container as firmly as possible with the other.
The bridge was quite a distance from her tiny frame home and she was becoming winded as each step progressed.
"It's worth the effort though," she said aloud, puffs of breath evident in the cold night air.
Finally reaching her destination, she looked around for signs of life. Discarded old tires, boxes and other debris lined the broken pieces of pavement underneath the busy highway overpass.
Movement of one of the larger boxes caught her dull eyes, startling her quiet nature.
"Hello?" she called, afraid for her very life in this run-down neighborhood known for its unusually high crime rate.
A young woman and child emerged slowly from their make-shift cardboard home, eying her warily.
"I've brought some warm soup for you," she said as she opened the container. "I've seen you sometimes as I pass over on my way to the grocery," she tried to explain away her kindness.
The young woman and child gobbled the liquid hungrily as she stood and watched. A tear trickled down her wrinkled face as she viewed the sad sight. Suddenly, she remembered the gift.
"Oh, here, sweetie," she said as she gently handed a rag doll with button eyes to the smiling child. "I thought this might help keep you warm."
Beautiful fireworks erupted in the distance announcing the New Year and the child and both women gazed into the sky with amazement.
As she stood up to leave for home, the child tugged at her ragged coat sleeve.
"Same time next year?" the child inquired with a twinkle in her eye.
She bent down and kissed the child on the cheek. Changes for the coming year would be granted for this young mother and her child -- an invitation to a new life: to share a warm home, food and friendship with an elderly, lonely, caring lady. No matter how meager her own means were she was determined to make a better life for them. And she did.
These old acquaintances certainly would not be forgotten.