Son’s Innocent Question To His Mom Seeing An Homeless Man In Tears.
Story by Brynn Burger
“But why did that one man come up to us crying, mama?”
Our little boy asked me innocently today after we handed out bags filled with snacks, warm hats and gloves, toiletries, a little cash, and handmade Christmas cards to a group of about a dozen people hiding out in an alcove in our tiny downtown area.
Friends, it’s cold. It’s been pouring rain and windy since early last night. I wasn’t ready for this. The people’s kind eyes ranged from late teens to probably early 70s.
We smiled back from behind our masks. We fist bumped and elbow tapped, our two wild ones bubbling with excitement.
Our kids were SO proud to show off their hand-drawn cards. The $5 bill in each bag meant nothing to them, just the card and the conversation. These kids were genuinely excited and sincerely concerned when a man in his 40s who called himself PigPen followed us as we were walking back to our car.
He wanted to thank us personally but he couldn’t get the words out. They got stuck in his throat, hot tears streaking the grizzled cheeks beneath his foggy glasses. “You’re raising them right, ma’am,” he muffled out while I gripped his arm as if I were his own mama, my tears matching his.
“I hope so, PigPen. And I hope you know that these wild kiddos prayed for you as they made these bags and cards and we will be praying for you everyday after this by name.”
“Ma’am, sometimes, no matter what you do, people don’t REALLY see you. So, thank you.”
Friends, I went in that alley with my husband and my kids with $57 in our checking account. It’s Christmas Eve. It is absolutely terrible weather. We barely made it home last night from visiting family as our rickety van literally shook anytime we went over 60mph over the mountain. But we made it….with $57 leftover. That’s it.
“PigPen,” my husband said sincerely, knowing our account balance, “we don’t have very much, but we know what it’s like to have nothing and to be totally dependant on the kindness of others. We just hope it helps a little.”
From one grown man to another, in a situation that society might have dressed in shame and despair, those two guys SAW each other.
Friends, I know we mess up as parents. In our house, we mess up a lot, if I’m being totally honest. But I know we got this right.
I didn’t take a picture because these men and women deserve respect and anonymity, as any human would. We all struggle in our own ways…some just hide it more convincingly.
But I don’t need a candid shot of PigPen fist bumping our boy or telling our daughter he hopes she gets lots of presents under the tree tomorrow, because I’ll never forget today.
Everybody deserves kindness. Being generous doesn’t have to cost much, but it can make a huge difference. No matter how little you have, sharing a bit of it can feel like magic. And this kind of magic lasts far past when the gifts are just paper shrapnel and tiny pieces of torn bows and boxes.
I don’t know how PigPen and his friends will spend the little $5 we could give them. I don’t know if they will like the snacks we packed. I’m typing this having just spent $30 of our last $57 on our son’s prescription meds.
But I don’t regret it. Not for a second.
When my son asked about why PigPen cried and when my daughter’s eyes filled with tears when she saw mine overflowing, I said simply, “Mama and daddy don’t have much and we know what it’s like to have even less than we do now. So, as a parent, it’s hard for me to see someone else’s sons and daughters hurting and struggling. I hope, no matter what you all choose in life, that you always share from what you have.”
“We will, mama,” they said sweetly.
And for all the wild and feral moments my kids have each day, I believed them.
***UPDATE FROM TONIGHT: As we tucked our kiddos into bed, we read the Christmas story and listened to my grandma’s reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas (recorded before she passed).
Both of my kids started crying.
I looked at my husband like, “This wasn’t in the manual! What do I do!?”
“Honey, what’s wrong?” I said as my girl curled up as far underneath me as she could and our boy threw himself wildly on my lap.
They both sobbed, “we are just so sad PigTen (that’s what they thought he’d said his name was) doesn’t have a warm house and we didn’t pack them enough food.”
Y’all. My heart COULD. NOT. TAKE. IT.
So, we prayed for each of our friends in the alley way. We talked about how God gives each of us different gifts and blesses us in different amounts and it is our responsibility to share those gifts.
They did not calm until we agreed to take breakfast to PigPen and his friends in the morning. I thought it was odd last week that I’d felt lead to buy three servings of cinnamon rolls (our Christmas morning tradition) just because they were on sale.
Now, we will have plenty to take hot coffee and warm cinnamon rolls and share smiles and Christmas morning fist bumps with PigPen tomorrow and y’all my heart could NOT be more full!