The old man was sitting on the sidewalk outside of my coffee shop while the preacher was inside preaching. (I’m normally the guy, preaching up a lather inside, but this week I hung in the back and saw things from a different perspective.) The old guy was all bundled up, he looked like he’d probably been drinking way to much earlier in the evening. Someone invited him in and offered him a cup of coffee. He was quiet, subdued, and content as he sat on a couch in the back.
It wasn’t long before an energetic three year old, walked by him, waved, and did a double take. The three year old is my son, Jayden. Jay stopped in his tracks looked at the guy in absolute amazement and said, “Santa Clause????” Apparently, the old man said yes, and for the next 45 minutes my son sat on the couch talking to him like an old friend. He asked him about Mrs. Clause, the reindeer, and how they all flew. He gave him his Christmas list, which currently consists of three things:
1. A bike for himself.
2. A bike for me.
3. A gift for Kiyana, (or Tiyana as he calls her), who happens to be a little girl who stays with our family on the weekends.
Jayden was so overwhelmed with excitement that Santa had come to church that night that he went running around the room telling people, “Santa Clause is here, what do you want for Christmas?” Some people went with him to meet the rather conspicuous and uncharacteristic old elf. Others just told Jayden what they wanted and he gladly went to convey the message.
It came time for “Santa” to leave, but Jay wanted to follow him outside to see if he would fly away with His reindeer. Much to his disappointment, Santa declined his request to see the reindeer, but told him to be good and he would see him later. Jayden’s night had been made.
I think the feeling was mutual. The old man, now noticeably sobered, and deeply impacted, told someone as he was leaving, “That kid made my day.”
I have to tell you, I’m a little jealous of my son. I’m jealous of his ability to look at a drunk, homeless, worthless old bum, (by the standards of many) and see a legend, a symbol of hope, joy, and cheer. I’m jealous that he could so easily sit with this man for nearly 45 minutes, making that man feel almost human for the same amount of time, while I struggle at times to spend five minutes in conversation with a stranger, not to mention a person so drastically different from myself.
Some would say, “how can you feel good about putting your kids in that environment?” “what if something would have happened to him?” “A drunk old man is not a person you should have around your three year old son.”
To which I reply, “how can I not put my kids in that environment?
They are doing exactly what Jesus would do, loving the unloveable, befriending the friendless. “What if something would have happened to him?” Well, I was standing close by, watching & listening. But, you know what, something did happen, not so much to Jayden, but through Jayden. He touched someone’s life. As to a drunk old man being around my kid; Jayden didn’t come home that night wanting a bottle of Chattanooga Whiskey. Instead, as I tucked him in to bed, He remembered the man he had just met and said to me, “Dad, Santa Clause is a nice man. He was very nice to talk to.” Then he smiled, closed his eyes, and went off to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in his head.
Dear God, Help me to see people for the worth that they possess, the potential they carry. Help me to see them through the innocent eyes of a child. Forgive me of my labels, my judgmental and critical attitude of others. Forgive me for considering myself better, more important or significant. Teach me to be more like my son when I grow up. – Amen.