A Baby’s Hug

I received this in an email today:

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A Baby’s Hug

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were 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 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.’

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 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 sidestep 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.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated 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’s bottom and stroked his back. It seemed that 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, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain; I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given an old dying man a great 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 for 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 Son for all eternity.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, ‘To enter with Jesus we must do as He stated…

” to become as little children.”

If this has blessed you, please bless others by sending it on. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.

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I love stories like this, however I hate the Bible-thumping that goes along with them, as if only Christians can do or be good, or feel remorse for not doing or being good.

Were this me in the story, I can honestly say that I would have never felt the judgment that this woman felt. I would have most likely realized that the man was in need of help, and I would have offered him a seat at our table and paid for his meal. A bit of good conversation would have probably made this man’s day.

I wonder why, after feeling all this remorse for being judgmental, this woman didn’t go back in and offer her apologies to the ragged old man for treating him like a sub-human. Instead, she sits outside and cries to her God for his forgiveness.

It often makes me realize that, because I am an Atheist, and because I do what’s right for the sake of it being the right thing to do, it makes me a better person than the so-called Christians in these stories.

I don’t need God to be good.

I don’t do good because I fear the retribution of a supposedly “loving god”, I do good because human beings need to be good to one another … we’re all we’ve got in this world.

I don’t do good because I want to score points to get me into some supernatural paradise. I do good because this life is the only life we have … why waste it by not being good.

I don’t do good because I’m trying to encourage “karma” to do good back to me. I do good to set an example to others and to show them how good it feels to do good. I would prefer that someone ‘pay it forward’, than hope that I get ‘paid back’.

So no, the religious folk don’t have a monopoly on being good … and us Atheists aren’t the horrible, evil people that Christians portray us as.

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  1. Karen Emmons
    August 16, 2010 at 2:51 am

    This was an amazing blog, that made my eyes wet reading it. Although I am not a Christian, per se, I am a good woman. I teach preschool, have two daughters and 6 grand babies. Listening to the little people enlighten my life so much.

    • August 16, 2010 at 5:14 am

      Thank you. I teared up reading it myself, until I got to the end.

      You have something I don’t, though … I could never work at a preschool again. I worked at a daycare, and I was a nanny, and I had a hard time dealing with children that weren’t my own. Being a parent to 1 and a step-parent to 2 was hard enough! Kudos to you! 🙂

  2. Jen
    August 16, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Oh great, you got me crying before I have to leave 🙂 You make some good points here!

    • August 16, 2010 at 8:32 am

      Sorry hun! 😀 I tried to make good points, I’m happy they were received as such.

  3. August 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

    This was a great story and a great example of how we can lose track of our true nature as we grow up. This story highlights the callous, egocentric, mindset that is instilled into us by modern culture.

    It also provides good insight into the mindset of many modern Christians. The thought that caring and good works can only be achieved if everyone lives in fear of a wrathful and smiting God.

    It really makes you wonder how many of these types of people would behave if they didn’t have an angry sky fairy to keep them in line.

    Great post!

    • August 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

      It really makes you wonder how many of these types of people would behave if they didn’t have an angry sky fairy to keep them in line.

      That seems to be the million dollar question! It’s probably one of the reasons that keep people from questioning their religion – for fear of retribution.

      I’ve often wondered if that is why most Christians can’t understand how Atheists can still be good without God. It’s like it’s a concept that they just can’t fathom. Those who do seem to be the ones who escape their religion.

      Thank you for your comment!

  4. Kathi
    August 16, 2010 at 8:48 am

    When I was a kid I sat in church one Sunday listening to the minister talk about the wonders of heaven and how that would be our reward for living a good life. He described streets paved in gold, everyone living in perfect love, spending eternity doing nothing but worshiping God. I remember turning to my uncle and saying that all that sounded really boring to me. My family was shocked and appalled at my blasphemy, but for the first time I realized a few things that changed my outlook on religion. First, I prefer trees and grass to streets of gold. Second, any god who thinks that souls doing nothing but worshipping him for eternity sounds terribly conceited and not like someone I’d care to worship in any way and especially not for eternity. And third, if people are only doing good on earth in the hopes of being rewarded for it in the afterlife, then they’re not really very good people at all, just opportunistic and self-serving.

    I realize now that my epiphany that day was a bit simplistic, but from that point on I have questioned a lot of things about religion in general and Christianity in particular. I’ve always tried to live a good life and do the right things, but never because I expected a reward for it. Doing the right thing is its own reward and it’s enough, at least for me.

    • August 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

      Beautifully stated! I remember many times like that in my life – questioning the religion I was brought up to believe. I think it’s sad how children are indoctrinated – brainwashed – into believing that doing good is doing “God’s work”. I felt much the same as you did. Still do.

      Thank you for your comment.

  5. August 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Wow, you had me going in the first part of that. I had started to sweat a little. Fantastic blog. If you get a chance, you might watch that “debate” documentary with Christopher Hitchens and ? Wilson. There’s a link on my blog that I hope will work.

    • August 16, 2010 at 9:46 pm

      LOL Temy, a little too close to home, huh? 😉 I think I may have already watched it, but can’t be sure. I’ll check … is it one of your recent blogs, or something older?

  6. August 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Dear Shelli, It has always seemed to me that if religion needs the threat of retribution to get its practitioners to do what is right then it is useless. People should do whats right because it is right. Peace, howie

    • August 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      Howie, you are so right. There are also 2 kinds of retribution – the aggressive (physical punishment) and the passive (being “left out” of what others will receive). Both are very powerful things for religions. It’s how they keep people in line, and how they keep them fearful enough to not even so much as question their religion. It’s sad, really.

  7. August 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    My latest one called “A Rambling”…link at the bottom.

    • August 16, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks. I’ll be reading blogs in a little while.

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