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The Magi in New York
By Colleen Messina

1     In the western part of New York City stood an old apartment building. Its decrepit bricks and rickety fire escapes looked like warts and whiskers on a sagging face. The residents had their struggles, but a thread of friendship tied neighbors together at Christmastime. Friends sacrificed for each other even when they had little to give.
2     The spirit of gift giving started long ago when the three Magi selflessly gave the first Christmas presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to a poor family. Let us look inside and see if the Magi have visited there...
3     Maria looked at their Christmas tree and tried to be grateful for her loving home. Her mom worked hard to make Christmas special, but their family still struggled to make ends meet. Their spindly tree was adorned with homemade ornaments and simple strands of colored lights. Brittle needles fell in a crunchy crescent on the carpet under the tree. Maria liked to set the tree lights blinking on the fast setting, but her mother preferred a steady display. Handmade stockings hung along a shelf, but no presents waited under the tree yet.
4     The one shining point of beauty in the room was a glass nativity set that rested daintily on a small table. The crystal figures caught the blinking lights from the tree and multiplied them. It was the family's greatest treasure, and it gave the room a dimension of elegance that most apartments in that building lacked.
5     Maria owned an antique Saint Christopher medal, but the chain had broken long ago. Maria sometimes fingered the burnished gold as she looked closely at the engraved figure of the saint. His face was tranquil as though nothing in this world ever troubled him. Maria wanted to buy a real gold chain, one worthy of the heirloom. Someday, Maria also wanted to be able to buy big presents for her family and friends. Her sparkling brown eyes held hope for a better life.
6     Maria's friend, Rich, also lived in the old apartment building. His mother also struggled to make ends meet by working double shifts at her waitressing job. Their apartment's peeling walls seemed to sigh with despair as the paint chips fell. A burgundy Christmas candle on the table gave the room a cinnamon smell, but no stockings hung from the shelf. Rich loved skateboarding, but he had no hope of receiving the new skateboard wheels he needed. Maria and Rich understood each other in the way that only those who face the same hardships can. They weren't infatuated, but they cared deeply for each other.
7     Rich came over on the day before Christmas Eve. He never knocked; he just came in and sat down. His handsome face crumpled as though all the joy had left him.
8     "Maria, my mom lost her job!" Rich said. His rigid clenched fists betrayed his agitation. Maria sat by him quietly, not knowing what to say.

Paragraphs 9 to 18:
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