As little children
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik
in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking.
Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded
his fat baby hands on the high-chair tray. His eyes were wide with
excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled
and giggled with merriment.
I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man
with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were
baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be
shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed.
His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so
varicose it looked like a road map.
We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His
hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. "Hi there, baby; hi there,
big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik.
My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?"
Erik continued to laugh and answer, ""Hi, hi there." Everyone in the
restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old
geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.
Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya
know patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows
Nobody thought he old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My
husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for
Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row
bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. We finally got
through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the
check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised
between me and the door.
"Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I
prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to
side-step him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik
leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's pick-me-up,
Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the
man's. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated
their love relationship.
Erik in an act of total trust, love and submission laid his tiny
head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I
saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime,
pain and hard labor - gently, so gently cradled my baby's bottom
and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so
short a time.
I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms
for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine.
He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby."
Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone.
He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he
were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless
you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift."
I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I
ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and
holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God,
I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a
tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a
soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes.
I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not, I felt
it was God asking - "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?"
when He shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly,
had reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must
become as little children."