Darkness would have you believe that the world is cruel and cold, but a recent story proves that warmth is overwhelming. All we have to do is let the warmth in.
This story has received a lot of attention on social media, but full names are withheld to maintain privacy. It begins in a completely normal situation that you probably experience almost every day: A young couple was out in public at a restaurant to share a family meal.
As the only couple with a baby in the restaurant, they were horrified when their tiny boy, Erik, started squealing with glee, pounding his hands on his high-chair tray, and saying, “hi” across the restaurant.
The mother, Sarah, was immediately embarrassed by Erik’s outburst and tried to calm him down. Her embarrassment magnified as she saw that Erik had grown excited by the presence of an old man who was obviously homeless.
To Sarah’s eyes, the man was more dirt than clothes. His oversized pants and holey shoes barely kept his skin covered, and she could tell that he smelled absolutely terrible.
Despite her best efforts, Erik kept squealing, blowing raspberries and trying to play with the old man. He played back, clearly delighted that the little boy was giving him so much attention.
Sarah, however, didn’t like the attention of the other diners and continued to try to calm and distract Erik. Sarah pleaded silently to her husband to help her come up with a solution and get the family out of there as quickly as possible.
The food arrived, almost in the nick of time, giving a temporary change of focus to Erik. As it is with babies, the distraction didn’t last long, and he was soon back to playing with the old man. Yelling and giggling with such innocent joy that Sarah almost forgot to be embarrassed.
Still, Sarah and her husband ate quickly and her husband got up to pay the check. As the family headed to the door they noticed the old man was directly in their path. Sarah’s husband exited before the rest of the family to get the car ready. Sarah was alone with just her, Erik, and the old dirty homeless man.
“Dear God, please let me make it out of here before the old man can talk to us,” she quietly prayed as she pulled Erik close to her chest. Almost lunging to the door, Sarah turned her back on the old man as she passed.
But before she could make the door, Erik made eye contact with the old man and started giggling with renewed vigor. He threw his tiny arms at the man in the universal “pick me up” motion and forced himself from Sarah into the arms of the old man.
With hands as sure as a man who has lived a hard life of labor, the man caught Erik as if he were the most precious and fragile being in the whole world.
The gentleness of the old man gave Sarah pause, even though she was horrified that her baby was in the clutches of a dirty, smelly vagrant. Time seemed to stop for the three of them standing at the entrance of the restaurant, as Erik and the old man stood there silently embracing one another in a manner that can only be described as true, unconditional love.
Tears streamed down the man’s dirty face, creating tiny rivers in the dirt caked on his weathered cheeks. After what felt like an eternity he pried Erik off his chest and handed him back to Sarah.
“You take care of this beautiful baby boy, ma’am,” he said through his tears. “Thank you for sharing him with me. You’ve given me the greatest gift in the world. My own son died when he was very young, and I have never recovered.”
“I will,” was all that Sarah could muster as she fled from the restaurant and to her waiting husband.
“Are you ok?” he asked as Sarah settled into the car. She had clearly been impacted by something that had happened as she repeated, “Please forgive me, God.”
What Sarah recounted was experiencing the natural and untainted love that her child possessed. Erik saw the old man, not as a filthy vagabond, but as a human being with feelings and a need to be loved. Love is the first and most natural feeling we can have if little children can see it, why can’t we. May we all look first to love and not fear is what Sarah took away, and what we can all take away.