A friend of mine received a Christmas card from her niece that contained this recount. I share it with you…
A family, traveling to visit relatives for the holidays, stopped at a restaurant for a bite. The parents were tired, their two kids cranky. Food and warmth and a break from the winter roads beckoned. They were shown to a table and given a booster seat for the toddler and a high chair for the baby. Mom and Dad ordered coffee and food and they settled in to wait.
Suddenly, the baby let out a delighted squeal and banged his hands on the tray of his high chair. The parents turned to see the source of such glee and discovered that a few tables away sat an old man.
It was all the mother could do not to wrinkle her nose at the sight of him. He was toothless, unshaven, filthy and with a bulbous red nose to rival Rudolph. Though he was too far away to get a whiff, both mother and father were sure he reeked.
The baby noticed none of that. And, while customers averted their eyes, baby and old man held each other mesmerized.
“Can you do peek-a-boo?” prompted the old man, covering his own eyes, while the baby followed suit, his laughter ringing through the small diner.
“How about pat-a-cake?” asked the old man.
With his adoring audience of one, the child ran through his entire repertoire of baby tricks, only pausing to start them all over again when he’d exhausted his supply.
The rest of the family ate in silence.
After paying the bill, the father decided to go get the car so that his family could make a quick escape. He hoped the old man wouldn’t follow and ask for money. While he headed outside, the mother bundled the kids up, the baby still craning his neck to keep the old man in his sight.
The old man stood at the same time and the mother found herself trying to squeeze past him at the front door. While she reached to pull open the door, her baby propelled himself from her arms into the waiting arms of the old man.
And there, he rested his head on the old man’s shoulder, a contented smile on his face, the old man’s eyes shut just enough to keep the tears from spilling.
The old man gave the baby one last squeeze and handed him back to the mother. “Thank-you,” he said, his eyes meeting hers. “You’ve given me my Christmas gift…. You take good care of that baby.”
The mother muttered that she would and headed out into the bitter night, where her husband waited with the car.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
The mother took a breath, finally acknowledging what she had seen. “I watched two people in an embrace of perfect love,” she said, incredulously. “Our baby saw a soul…while we saw a dirty suit of clothes. He saw someone worthy of love, while we saw someone worthy of contempt.”
She began to cry, but through her tears realized that her baby had given them, too, their Christmas gift.