THROUGH INNOCENT EYES by The Sir Shaggs
Mia arrived with her son, Jacob, at the bus terminal nearly an hour early. Mia grabbed her phone to call for Phil, their welcoming ride into the heart of New York City, as Jacob stared around in amazement at the people zipping to and fro.
Jacob's wandering eyes suddenly stopped upon a man in the middle of the chaos, just sitting there, looking weathered and tired. His clothes were shabby and torn, his hair and beard ragged, and he appeared rather emaciated beneath his heavy coat. Despite his obvious need of assistance, Jacob seemed to be the only one to take notice of the man. "Mommy," he said, trying to get Mia's attention.
It took Mia some time to react to her son's call – she was, after all, trying to contact their only ride out of the bus terminal – but when she did, she yanked him by the arm. "Jacob! It's not polite to stare at people!"
Mia strode out the revolving doors and onto 8th avenue with Jacob in tow, his bright orange knit cap bouncing along behind her. Finally! Now she had a signal. She released her son for a moment to dial Phil and ask if he could arrive early.
"Great, great! Thanks so much, Phil. We'll see you soon!" As she hung up her phone, Mia realized Jacob was no longer on her arm. She looked to the left, and the right, but he was nowhere to be found on the busy Manhattan sidewalk.
Panic began to set in. Mia darted up the block to peer around the corner on 41st Street, then back to 42nd. Nowhere could she find the little boy in the neon orange cap.
Mia decided her best option was to check back inside; maybe Jacob returned to the terminal, or at the very least she could ask someone to page him and offer to them his description. Mia took a deep breath in a futile attempt to stay calm, and pushed through the revolving doors.
First she ran up to the gate where they had entered the terminal. Jacob was nowhere to be found. Then she ran down to the bottom floor, where there was a McDonald's that might easily attract the attention of a small American boy. Still no luck.
Mia felt trapped in the center of an endless labyrinth, within which her son's location was entirely unknown. Was he even in this labyrinth at all? Mia was ready to give up and enlist the assistance of one of the (many) police patrolling the terminal, when a flash of orange in her peripheral vision caught her attention.
"Jacob!" she cried as she saw his characteristic cap across the terminal floor. Relieved and angry all at once, Mia took off in his direction, hoping that by some stroke of luck this was indeed the orange hat that belonged to her and not just some cruel trick of the universe at a crucial time.
Indeed, it was Jacob. Mia flew up to him like a bat out of hell, grabbed his arm, dropped to his level prepared to shriek and holler, and say "how could you scare me like that, young man?!" But when she got there, she had no words.
Jacob was standing with the homeless man, who was eating a sandwich that Jacob had apparently – perhaps a bit pridefully – bought for him. "Mommy, this is my friend Hector!" Hector finished the current bite of the sandwich and wiped the crumbs from his mustache.
"Ma'am," Hector began, slowly staggering to his feet. "I can understand your boy must have given you a scare. But please, don't be angry with him. Not only has he done a kind deed for me, but he saw a human where all these others only saw trash."
At this, Mia relaxed. She felt proud of her son, as if he had been the only one of thousands to do what they all knew was the right thing. She thanked Hector for his words and wished him well. He nodded in return, smiled and turned to Jacob. "It was nice to meet you, little man," he said. "Thank you for your kindness."
Jacob simply smiled in return and said "Bye Hector!"
As the mother and son walked out to 8th Avenue to meet their ride, Mia thought to herself "sometimes it takes the mind of a child, I guess, to remind us civilized adults of our humanity."