We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking.
Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter, and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.
I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast. 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 as he called to my baby. "Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster."
My husband and I exchanged looks. "What do we do?"
Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi."
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 patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo."
Nobody thought the 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."
As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did so, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship.
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, 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, 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, lovingly and 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, forgive me."
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."
Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.
Here is a real neat hint for someone who loves plants and it's almost as good to make as to receive this one:
- Choose a wide glass vase; add stones or pebbles (carefully)
- Choose a selection of spring bulbs and lace at the bottom of vase in the midst of the stones
- Tie a ribbon around the vase
- Add a small amount of water to the stones to make the bulbs grow
- It's great to watch the roots appear and then the plant itself!
More about Lena Nelson Dooley:Lena says: "My first novel was published by Heartsong Presents in 1992, my second in 2002. Four books came out in 2004, and a new novel released in August 2005. I had five releases in 2006, with four already scheduled for 2007."
It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.