December 2017

About this time each year I pen and end of year message that I hope will touch someone, if not just me. This year I wanted to share a story I stumbled upon. I hope it touches you as much as it touched me…It’s called 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 ya’ 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 bill 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 those of the man.

Suddenly, a very old smelly man and a very young baby shared 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. 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 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?” He had shared His only Son for all eternity. How must God have felt when He put his baby in our arms 2,000 years ago?

The ragged old man had unwittingly reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children."

If this has blessed you, please bless others by sharing it. 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.

This story warms my heart because it illustrates how little children can be so willing to accept and love other human beings, even those who are dirty, smelly and ragged. It reminds me of a trip I took to Savannah Georgia years ago. Pam and I had just finished lunch, and as we exited the restaurant, sitting there in the shadows was an old, unshaven derelict who was obviously drunk. Hundreds of well-dressed vacationers were passing him by without a glance. He beckoned to no one, until he saw me. Why me? My wife just smiled…we had become accustomed to “bums” supernaturally seeking me out, because I too, as a recovering alcoholic, have a pedigree as a bum. Of course I went over to speak to the man and to give him a hug of hope, and while doing so saw a mangy German shepherd snuggled beside him. Why did that stand out to me? Because like the “child” story above, the dog didn’t care that his “friend” was a bum whom polite society would consider worthless.

Dogs and babies are often more likely to show compassion for the downtrodden and lonely than those of us who have been abundantly blessed. The mother of the baby in the story above felt convicted by her revulsion for the old man. Perhaps there is takeaway value here for the rest of us, and me particularly. May I suggest that during this holiday season we all think carefully about the message she wrote?

What is your reaction when you stop your car at a corner and are confronted by a “panhandler” asking for money? We all know that cash contributions are often used for alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. But is it right to look the other way until the light turns green? I’ve done that many times, while also giving on occasion. And when we do give, is it out of guilt or from the heart? Listen, you and I may hate the fact this these people are out every day asking for your “hard earned money”. But have you ever thought about how hard and miserable it must be to stand on a corner every day, day in and day out in the hot sun asking for a quarter here and there?

Let me pose several other questions. Do you know someone who desperately needs a little kindness during this Christmas season? It could be an elderly man or woman languishing in a nursing home that has been abandoned by his or her family. Or it could be someone much closer, like your own parents or grandparents. Would a visit and a warm touch from you bring joy to one of those lonely individuals? Could you take a moment to remind him or her that this is the season of hope…that you care.

The purpose of sharing these thoughts with you this month is because they lie at the heart of who I want to be. I want to be that guy who brings encouragement, hope and compassion to as many people as possible – including you all.

I love this time of year. I truly, really love this time of year. Thanksgiving and Christmas just seem to fill me up with such a spirit of joy and giving. I just need to carry it forward 24/7 – 365.

I hope this didn’t come across as preachy – it’s not meant to be. I just want us all to share the warmth of the holiday season.

78Madison would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very blessed new year. We’d like to thank all of you who have entrusted us with their marketing needs. We value your partnership and couldn’t be happier that you’re part of our family. A new year means new challenges and new opportunities. Whatever your goals and milestones will be, all of us at 78Madison will be there and making sure you always feel confident and comfortable in choosing us.

Joe Bouch
CEO 78Madison

78Madison is a full service marketing communications firm (advertising agency) located in Orlando-Altamonte Springs Florida.