A family was eating in a restaurant.
Out of nowhere, their three year old squealed with glee and said, “Hello mister.”
The source of his delight was a man with a tattered rag of a coat, dirty, greasy and worn. He looked like he lived on the street.
His hands waved and flapped.
“Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya.” the man said to Erik, the three year old.
They ate in silence, all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring man, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. The parents wished the meal would end so they could leave.
They finally went to pay the check and the old man sat poised between them and the door.
As they drew closer to the man Erik leaned over and propelled himself into the man’s arms. Suddenly he was hugging a very old smelly man. Erik, in an act of total trust, love, and compassion laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.
Erik’s mother was uncomfortable, as most of us would be. She was slightly afraid and wanted her baby back.
The man’s eyes closed and tears hovered beneath his lashes. No two beings have ever been so connected for so short a time.
The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on the mother’s.
He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.”
He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain.
The man said, “God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me a gift.”
With Erik in her arms, she ran for the car crying.
Those in the restaurant had just witnessed pure love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who made no judgment, an old man who experienced complete acceptance for one of the rare times in his life, and a mother who struggled to see past a suit of ragged clothes.