Sometimes the soft and trusting heart of a baby can teach us whose hearts have become calloused over time a lesson on unconditional love. I read this in a story told by a mother, I hope it will touch your heart too.

She told how she and her husband were the only ones with a child in a downtown restaurant. She said: “I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly seated and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee. He began pounding his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes we crinkled in laughter, and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was an old man whose pants were tattered and soiled, wearing shoes so worn-out that his toes poked out the holes. His shirt was dirty, and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and the veins in his nose made it look a road map.

We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he reeked with body odor. His hands were flapping at my little Erik with loose wrists, as he called out. ‘Hi there, baby; Hi there, big boy. I see ya, kid.’ My husband and I exchanged looks, ‘What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer while grinning from ear to ear. 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 boy.

As our meal arrived the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Can you play patty cake?’ and then started to play peek-a-boo behind a menu. When Erik giggled, the old tramp said with joy, ‘Hey, look, he knows how to play peek-a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was being cute. He appeared to be drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence but not Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with admiring 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 car. The old man sat poised between me and the door. I prayed, ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he notices.’ As I drew closer to where the man was sitting, I turned my back, trying to get past him and avoid any contact. As I did, little Erik leaned over my arm, reaching out with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ gesture. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the old man’s arms. Suddenly, a very smelly old man and a baby expressed their love and kinship. 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 cradled my baby. 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 and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed to mumble, ‘I will,’ in a cracked voice filled with embarrassment. He lovingly pried Erik from his chest as though he were in pain, and handed him back to me.

I grabbed my baby, and the old man whispered, ‘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 tight, and why I was sobbing, ‘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. The child saw a soul, and his mother saw a man dressed in crumpled 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, ‘Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’1

This moving true story should remind all of us that because of God’s grace and mercy we are able to love people in a special way. As someone once said: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” That’s what separates Christians from the rest of the world. But for all of us, the question is, does that describe me? – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Matthew 18:3

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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