alone christmas

Alone During Christmas



den late (2) consumerism
sorrow long way consciousness
deed Boy Scout concentrate
flow downtown commercialism
guardian partner (2) according to
descend riverbank retreat (3)
candle range (2) out of sight
ashtray invisible toolmaker
avoid outcast around (2)
point (3) point out ground (2)
barely festivity hustle and bustle
order (3) figure (3) supposed to
spoil dressing up and running
bare available down and out
redeem nunnery Franciscan
tend (2) outreach frequent (2)
fund treatment attendance
founder donation elements (2)
pour ointment pressure (2)


Video (You can view the first 5, 7, 10 , 12 or 15 minutes): Christmas Time



Klaus Meiwald, Homeless: “‘Look at the foxes; they have their dens. Look at the birds — they have their nests.

But the son of man has no place where he can rest his head.’

It says that in the Bible.

I used to tell my late partner, God and Jesus come first, then you . . . and then a long way behind you — the rest of the world.”

“Personally, I think it’s a sorrow for people’s consciousness. ‘We haven’t given anything all year . . . Let’s give him a euro . . . Right, that’s done . . . Like Boy Scouts, we’ve done our good deed for the day . . . Now we can concentrate on Christmas’.”

Despite economic crisis, money flows freely. Business is good in downtown Wurzburg on the twenty-fourth of December. Also for Klaus Meiwald.

Klaus Meiwald: “It’s a day like any other: commercialism rules, okay. Look at the shopping bags.

Personally, I’m not really into consumerism. You give to me; I give to you. And that’s it.”

Not long to go before darkness descends on Christmas Eve. This is 61-year-old Klaus Meiwald’s 22nd Christmas on the street, in one German city or another: this year it’s Wurzburg.

According to the official statistics, Wurzburg has around 350 homeless people. The real figure is probably higher.

Their retreats are the riverbank, indoor car parks, bridges where there are out of sight. And sheltered from the elements.

Gunther Lowenhofer has spent many a night here. This was his bed. Even his old ashtray is still here.

Gunther Lowenhofer: “Nice view, huh?”

Gunther Lowenhofer lived under this bridge for two-and-a-half years — summer and winter.

Gunther Lowenhofer: “Christmas. But you can’t light candles here. Very sad place this, because you sleep here alone. You have no one to talk to.

You hear people walking past up there.

And you make yourself as small as possible . . . so you can’t be seen from the car-park. Like anywhere in town, it’s best to stay invisible.”

First he lost his job as a toolmaker, then his apartment.

The street became his home.

Gunther Lowenhofer: “It’s hard to find places where you can stay. No one wants you around.

You’re an outcast — and it’s not nice having that constantly pointed out at you. Ten times a day, I can do without that.”

Journalist: “So you avoid the town?”

Gunther Lowenhofer: “With my eyes, certainly. I prefer to look at the ground than to look directly at people.”

Christmas: Buying presents. Shopping for food. Planning festivities.

The homeless are barely visible in all the hustle and bustle. And they’re not supposed to be.

The Christmas machine is up and running. When the Christmas market is on in Wurzburg, the guardians of public order patrol the streets more often, so we’re told.

The pressure on the homeless is then increased. Down and outs are not supposed to spoil the picture, especially not at Christmas.

They receive the bare minimum from the state: a bed in a hostel and €12 a day. Showers and washing machines are available — in the warming house.

A free, midday meal is provided in the nunnery by the Sisters of the Redeemer.

Brother Tobias Matai the Franciscan knows lots of hiding places. In 2004, he founded a medical outreach service that tends to the homeless at the places they frequent.

Today, trained nurse Tobias has his own treatment in the Warming House.
There’s also a doctor in attendance once a week.

The services are funded largely by donations.

His patients come with a range of health problems and concerns.

This man is worried about his blood pressure.

He turns 68 in September and at the moment has a bed at a hostel.

Brother Tobias: “Anyone can come to us or to me just as they are.

No questions asked: we don’t ask if they’re insured, where they live or how they live — it’s enough that they are there.

As Saint Francis, the founder of our Order told his brothers, ‘Brother Leo, if it does you good to come to us, then come.’

We live by that sentiment, by the Gospel, if it helps, come to me. I am there, and we’ll see what we can do, and how we can help.”

For which Brother Tobias doesn’t always need dressings and ointments.

Gunther Lowenhofer: “Brother Tobias listens, and that’s sometimes worth more than five euros, because even the homeless have to pour their hearts out sometimes, unburden their souls and lighten the load.

And if you find someone like Tobias, you’re a lucky man.”

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1. Klaus Meiwald a religious person. What do you think?

2. Is he critical and opposed to consumerism and materialism? How long has he been homeless?

3. Gunther has always been homeless; he has been poor and homeless for most of his life. True or false? What happened to him?

4. Gunther feels rejected and ostracized, alone with no friends. Yes or no? Why do people reject him? Are there “patrol” or “policemen” on the streets who tell the homeless that they cannot stay and must move on?

5. Do the homeless receive support and help? Who helps them? What assistance do they receive?

6. Brother Tobias, the Franciscan, only helps officially registered people. Is this correct or wrong? What inspires and motivates him?

7. Do visitors to the Warming House only want medical treatment?

8. Only poor and homeless people feel alone and lonely during Christmas. Yes or no?

9. Is there a parable or link between these people and the Bible?


A. What “normally” happens during Christmas?

B. Do you know anyone who is alone during Christmas? How might they feel?

C. There are charities, programs and organizations that help needy individuals in my city. Yes or no?

D. Is homelessness a problem in your town or city?

E. Why are some people homeless?

F. What is the solution to homelessness?
G. How has the situation changed over the decades? How might things change in the future?


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