December 9th, 2010
10:07 AM ET

Letters to the President #689: 'Playing hide and seek with President Lincoln'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/09/art.vert.getty_salvationarmy.jpg width=292 height=320]Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is facing some pretty steep challenges to his latest plans, especially in regard to the tax cuts. Ah well, sometimes even seemingly impossible tasks work out fine.

Dear Mr. President,

I realize that you are embroiled in a big tax fight, the passing of Elizabeth Edwards is still fresh and painful for many folks in DC, and all the regular, difficult business of the White House churns on. I suppose I should have something helpful to say about some or all of that, but I just don’t today. Not sure why. So I thought I’d tell you about a little incident that occurred right outside of our building here on Columbus Circle.

When I am in New York I prefer to take the subway to most places. I don’t mind the expense of cabs, but I do dislike how slow they are. I mean this in a relative sense, of course, since many tourists and locals alike can attest to the crazy, rocket speed careening they have enjoyed at the hands of NY cabbies. Still, compared to the subway, especially at a busy time, cabs and other cars just can’t compete.

In any event, I emerged from a subway stop alongside Central Park, with the sun shining brightly and a cold wind whipping. People were rushing every which way, a river of cars was swirling past, and dead ahead a Salvation Army bell ringer was adding to the din.

I am not a superstitious person, but when I was a child I developed a habit of always dropping something into the Salvation Army kettles when I pass. Their group does a lot of really excellent work to help people in need, and I feel as if it would somehow be a type of blasphemy to slip by without helping out. So I pulled out my wallet, extracted a five dollar bill (the denomination matters only because of what follows,) and happily went up to stuff it into the shiny red pot. The bell ringer wished me a Merry Christmas and I was turning to say the same when a gust ripped the bill from my fingers, out of the pot, and down the sidewalk. He and I shouted simultaneously with surprise, and I took off in pursuit. The bill zigzagged through the sea of feet. It jumped into the air on cross currents, ricocheted through legs and bags, and skittered along the curb threatening to dive into traffic where it would surely be lost.

There were twin dangers: One, that I would simple lose track of it or watch it outrun me. Or two, someone would look down, pick it up, and then what am I going to do? Run up and say, “Did you just find five dollars? It’s mine.” No slam on New York, but that is not necessarily going to fly anywhere these days.

Back to the chase. The distance between me and the bell ringer was rapidly expanding, and my contact with the errant fiver was growing more tenuous. The bill would flash into sight, I would lunge that way, and just as quickly Abe Lincoln would wink and disappear again. I was on the verge of giving up. Then the legs parted, the wind flagged, and there it was, balanced on a metal grate, quivering. How no one else spotted it, I can’t say. All I know is that I raced over, slapped a foot on it (an old Mardi Gras doubloon capturing technique,) and moments later I was back at the kettle stuffing it deep inside. The bell ringer and I shared a laugh and an unspoken acknowledgment that we’d witnessed one of those little holiday miracles which really aren’t miracles at all, but are a lot of fun nonetheless.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy hearing about it and find some inspiration as you chase your own elusive goals. Heading back to DC today, so if you want to have lunch or something, give a buzz.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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