|Charles McKeever send this one in...
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Justin in
a high chair and noticed everyone was eating and talking. Suddenly,
Justin squealed with delight 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
tell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose
"Hi there, baby; hi
there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Justin.
My husband and I exchanged
looks, "What do we do?"
Justin 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 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 Justin, 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
"Lord, just let me
out of here before he speaks to me or Justin," I prayed.
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, Justin leaned over my arm, reaching with both
arms in a baby's "pick-me-up" position. Before I could stop
him, Justin 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. Justin 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 Justin 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 Justin 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 Justin in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband
was wondering why I was crying and holding Justin 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."