Tag Archives: Merry Christmas


By Rosalie Tirella

Last night …

I watched the classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE last night. It’s been a few years since I “screened” it in my digs. I forgot just how great – as in without peers! – this film is! For a while ELF was my go to Christmas gem, but after last night, there was no comparing! Beautiful story. Warm and quirky touches. OUTSTANDING REAL ACTING. Ward Bond. That terrific Irish American character actor. Donna Reed. Frank Capra directing. Best of all: James Stewart. It was after World War I I and Stewart was a hero, had flown bomber planes for the US military. Led a bunch of guys – including Worcester’s Tony Hmura! But the war had taken its toll: Stewart had had a nervous breakdown and Hollywood wondered what his new roles would be. He could no longer be the charming, handsome, young romantic lead. He was older now, beaten-down looking. A war hero with the emotional scars that come with it.

Then comes IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and everything that made Jimmy Stewart Jimmy Stewart at that moment rose up to the tippity top of his soul – all his fears, loves, knowledge, world weariness…
All this seen in Stewart’s face and body language, especially in the second half of the movie, when George Bailey’s (Stewart’s) guardian angel makes him non-existent. George was driving to the falls to jump off the bridge and kill himself because Uncle Billy misplaced their bank’s $8,000. He wanted to escape jail, loss of status, maybe even his wife and kids. So poof! Clarence his guardian angel appeared and saved him by showing George what life would look like if he had never been born. Clarence guides him thru the consequences. George sees what his small town would be without him. It is a surreal, intense experience! Not cutesy at all! Mr. Gower, the drugstore owner, is a homeless alcoholic. George’s mother is cruel and hard from running a boarding house to survive. Uncle Billy’s in an insane asylum. And Mary is alone, never married, never had kids and a family. George sees all the losses, the missed moments, the ripples of love he created thru all his good deeds that he never gave a second thought about BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENED! He was a good man! The close up of George’s face when he realizes he was never married to his lady love – Mary…Guy wrenching, terrifying. A deep deep close up of Stewart’s exhausted face is too much to bear! George had already seen his kid brother’s gravestone, Mr. Gower’s alcoholism and homelessness, his mother’s bitterness, his town’s metamorphosis: from postcard cute to rough, poor, dumpy and filled with whores of all kinds …is too much. His cute town owned and operated by the evil Mr. Potter! Because George wasn’t there to be the light in the darkness!

To see George’s face when he awakens from this nightmare! YES!!!HE’S ALIVE! HE IS HOME! WIFE, KIDS, UNCLE BILLY, MA, BAILEY’S BUILDING AND LOAN, SWEET OLD BEDFORD FALLS!! All there! YES!! George leaps into the winter air! He runs down Main Street, all decked out for Christmas, waving and shouting to all the mom and pop shoppes – and the Bijou movie house! Stewart is tall and lanky and athletic…so he looks very beautiful. He slides to a halt to hug Ernie the cop or to pat his old jalopy, the one he crashed into a tree, all the while yelling MERRY CHRISTMAS! MERRY CHRISTMAS! to everybody!

An ordinary guy living in a small American town having a religious experience. LOVE = CHRISTMAS!

What wouldn’t “be” if you weren’t embodied in your you-ness?

Gone from Worcester, planet earth? Poof! Like magic! What good deeds, kind words, rescues – great and small – would disappear from the universe? Forever! Who would be left … alone, bereft, lost, hungry, homeless? If you’re a teacher or nurse or fireman…you know the answer. But what about you captains of industry and chamber of commerce types? What would Your IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE look like? What would your Worcester neighborhood, Worcester County town or city look like sans YOU?

Living in a car for seven months changes you! Looking up at the night sky, purplish and star-less, staring at it all from my car windshield!!, I sometimes thought: What if? What is the point of ME? Look at me! In a car! At Christmas!!! But then Jett and Lilac and the morning birdsong and the fresh new day made me … happy! Nature and animals drew me back into life, and I would think: my pups need me! It’s beautiful outside! Let’s run the dogs and buy a fresh cup of coffee at McDonald’s and work the problem. And the people and streets of my hometown made me feel happy!

I was lucky. I had a car – and friends who saved me in snow storms and heat waves. But many homeless folks don’t have that – they depend on their town or city for shelter and compassion. This Christmas all the churches in Worcester – except one – said NO to housing our homeless folks during the coldest months of the year. NO the pastors told the mayor and city manager, they couldn’t make room for the poor in their church community rooms or buildings or even church basements. Father John Madden at St. John’s Church on Temple Street did so for many years – the City’s guardian angel – but this winter new needs sprung up in Worcester (mostly a housing crisis, coupled with COVID) – and our churches, houses of God, said: No room at the Inn!

What would George Bailey have done?

Mike Moreshead of Worcester’s Friendly House

By Rosalie Tirella

The gift. photos: R.T.

Last night I made this kinda rough looking Dollar Tree gift basket for a guy who saved my life. A lopsided token of thanks for a guy who got me and my two dogs out of my car, out of homelessness, a few months ago, and into this beautiful apartment.

It’s my first gift basket ever and I’m a little ashamed of it. It’s so … prosaic. No glitter, no sparkle, no big red velvet ribbon tied at the top. The gifts are from Dollar Tree. It’s smallish, too, especially when you consider that Mike performed a MIRACLE.

I had been homeless for more than a year when I met him. I had hit all the Worcester social service agencies and filled out all their application forms (hundreds), multiple times, it seemed. I had connected with Congressman Jim McGovern’s office and a few other political poo bas. They couldn’t have cared less about my predicament. Except for Pam Ortiz and Christine at Central Mass Housing Alliance, every social worker type had their head up his/her arse. FILL OUT THIS FORM, they’d say, obliviously. GET ON A COMPUTER AND GO TO THIS LINK, they’d say, callously. CALL THIS PHONE NUMBER! GOOD LUCK! …Holly, the young woman in charge of Congressman McGovern’s office, actually laughed at me. Laughed in my face! So I was expecting more of the same when I drove up to the Friendly House on Wall Street one sunny afternoon.

I’ll never forget meeting Mike Moreshead, assistant to the Friendly House director: I was desperate, stinky, depressed. Out walked Mike to “assess the situation.” He stood by my car, neat as a pin wearing dress pants and dress shirt, blue neck tie. He had a pen and clip board in hand. He was soft-spoken, fine-boned, short – I’d say he weighed no more than 100 lbs – and looked almost as depressed as me. I thought to myself: GREAT! LOOK AT HIM! I NEED A STRONG PERSON! WE’RE HOMELESS! WE NEED HELP – BIG TIME!! AND THIS IS MY SOCIAL WORKER?! We’ll be in my freakin’ car forever!

Boy, was I wrong about Mike Moreshead – now the assistant director of the Friendly House! Did I ever underestimate this quiet, understated social service … POWERHOUSE. Mike actually did the work, filled out the paperwork and followed through with scores of phone calls on my behalf. I checked in with him every day. He gave me my side of the equation to work but went over it all before PDFs were emailed. Made copies and kept the duplicates. When you’re homeless file folders are a luxury.

No fancy ribbon up top!

When I despaired, Mike stayed strong and focused, worked his contacts for me, THOUGHT THE PROBLEM THRU. Once he got me a few weeks respite in a motel. When property directors started getting a bit obscure or didn’t call me back like they said they would, Mike called them on my behalf – and stayed on them. He had clout but used it wisely, softly, diplomatically … the opposite of this old broad’s interpersonal style! I learned a lot watching Mike Moreshead!

Mike loved Jett and Lilac. Whenever I drove up to the Friendly House, he’d come out and I’d feel reassured, “on track” as he caressed Lilac’s old face and say, Only a few weeks more, girl … or pat Jett and tell him: Just a little longer, Jett. You’ll have a home! You could see the compassion in this young man’s eyes. You could tell his heart broke for my two dogs, my Jett and Lilac.

Mike’s softness doesn’t make him a pushover. He’s tough, very strong willed, eyes on the prize. I’m tenacious. Mike Moreshead is twice as tenacious as I am! For all his Friendly House clients, for social justice. By the end, I was urging him to run for Worcester City Council. WORCESTER NEEDS YOU, MIKE! I’d say over and over again.

Mike’s letters have real grace – I framed one of his recommendation letters about me! A “me” that I want to be now! Every day I strive to be the Rose in Mike’s letter! UMass Amherst gave him that great liberal arts education: he’s well spoken, can do the research, write well, read critically … He’s gifted!

Gift basket making is another thing. It is not as easy as the YouTube videos make it out to be and if you don’t have a lot of $$. You need gifts, first of all. The influencers say you need to color coordinate and get your bows all in a row, small to large, in a special holiday caddy! I have no bows or caddies, just bought the transparent tape last week! … But I thought of Mike Moreshead when I put it together. I remembered all he’s done for me and my dogs this past half year and got inspired! I went to the dollar store and mixed and matched and really hunted for things that would make Mike smile. For all his phone calls, his sympathetic ear, his gentle ways, his openness, the call backs, the intelligent advice, the honesty, the perseverance. The love for all his Friendly House clients, for all the poor families and struggling single moms in the neighborhood. Once outside Mike saw a woman struggling with a heavy food box and said: GOTTA GO, Rose! SHE NEEDS HELP CARRYING HER BOX!

The pancake spatula is Christmas red!

I tried to be creative when creating Mike’s Christmsas gift box! Tried to transcend the pennies in my purse! Mike is a young guy just starting out with his young hairdresser wife. Mike is the owner of two dogs – and a cranky cat. Mike Moreshead, is now the very very busy assistant director at the Friendly House. So I thought of a relaxing Sunday morning or day off and bought him a box of Old Fashioned Pancake mix at Price Chopper – I like their baking mixes – and a spatula to flip those pancakes. And I put in a serving plate for all those warm pancakes, plastic knife and fork tied to a Christmas ball. All strategically arranged in a cute dish I found on the side of the road (and washed!! Shhhh! Don’t tell Mike!) My favorite breakfast gift item I put in Mike’s Christmsas gift basket? This potholder set! Christmas pups and kitties celebrating “Santa Paws”! I know he’ll love it!

Adorable “Santa Paws” potholders!

When Friendly House Executive Director Gordon Hargrove retired after decades of loving service to the people of Friendly House, to Worcester’s poorest of the poor, I was worried. Gordon was so wonderful! So giving and caring! So intellectual but also so hands-on – and wise and savvy. How could anyone ever take his place? I feared the Friendly House would shrivel up and die – or become just another pointless Worcester social service agency. Again: boy, was I was wrong. They’ve got Trish and Mike Moreshead and Josephina at the helm – and a great staff to help serve the community.

Mostly, in my opinion, they’ve got Mike Moreshead.