‘Those people gave me strength and hope when I had none’
Tree McFarland and Christmas, the rooster.

‘Those people gave me strength and hope when I had none’

For one Vermonter, hungry and injured in Hawaii, kindness and love comes from two strangers in the form of a home-cooked Christmas dinner

BRATTLEBORO — Last year, I was in Hawaii for Christmas.

I couldn't find any place to pitch my tent.

I had a bad infection in my leg that lasted over a month, and my leg was double its normal size. I couldn't work. It was the end of the month and I spent what food money I had left on antibiotics.

I moved from beach to beach as often as I could so I wouldn't get spotted and kicked out. I slept in lava caves. Or I'd search for fallen coconut leaves at night to build up as camouflage around fallen trees.

I rescued a little rooster with a bad leg, as well. I called him “Christmas.” He'd snuggle up to my neck when we slept. I was starving! I made a deal with the rooster that whoever died first could eat the other, if need be.

* * *

On Christmas Day, at one of the parks, a lady and her husband had made the most heartfelt home-cooked Christmas dinner for anybody who wanted it. They were an older couple who used the money out of their own pockets and lived off retirement. They'd been doing it for years.

What a spread! I could taste the love put into that food in every bite. I was so grateful. I broke down crying like a baby! I hadn't eaten in three days.

The woman gave me a big hug and said, “You just made it all worth it!”

I'll always treasure that moment. Those people gave me strength and hope when I had none.

After a few days, the rooster got better and went back on his merry way.

And this Christmas, thanks to Groundworks Collaborative, I have my own place back here in Brattleboro.

Please be kind. You never truly know what someone is going through unless you open your heart.

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