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Dining Out



  Think about this, the next time you go to a restaurant.
  We were the only family with children in the restaurant. 
I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking.
  Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded 
his fat baby hands on the highchair 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 whose 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 smell, but I was sure he smelled.
  His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. "Hi there, baby; hi 
there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik. My husband 
and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Erik 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 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," I prayed. As 
I drew closer to the man, I turned  my back trying to side-step him 
and avoid any air he might be breathing.  As I did, 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's.
  Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated 
their love relationship. 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-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 Erik 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 Erik 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 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."


 


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