When I first walked into Judy’s, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I’d heard that you could get a free coat there, and I was in need. I’d been told it wasn’t a good idea to mess with her, and as I mentioned in an earlier post I found out why when I got there. When I caught my first glimpse of “Andre” I understood why there was a word on the street. Nobody would have sought trouble with him, and I certainly wasn’t going to to be the first.
The store was beyond crowded, filled to overflowing with clothing and knick-knacks. The register was behind a counter next to the front door, and behind the register stood Judy. A woman of medium height and weight with salt and pepper hair, and a face that had the detail of a road map. One may have not known her story, but her face left no doubt as to the fact that she had one. Affable and friendly, her face characteristically wore a smile.
When I came in, she greeted me, and I asked her about getting a coat. She told me to follow her, and as I did, I noticed a boy following us. A boy of about five or six with a cow-lick in his bright red hair, with bright blue eyes in a face freckled and evidently intrigued by me. When I looked down at him, he smiled up at me, a sunbeam of a smile. One of those kind of smiles that are almost irrestible to respond to. I turned back to Judy in response to something she said, and as she walked toward the back I continued to follow her. It was then I felt a tug on the back of my shirt, and when I glanced down the hem of my shirt was in this boy’s hand, and once again he was looking up at me with that smile of his.
How do I explain what seeing that kid’s hand on the hem of my shirt did to me? How seeing him smiling up at me made me feel? For so long, people around me had been putting their distance between themselves and me, and rightly so, and when they weren’t doing it I was. Have you ever been to a point in your life where receiving a kind word or an affectionate touch hurt? I know that it may not make sense, but kindness, affection, and love weren’t the kind of things I could easily afford, so I didn’t know what to think as I saw this boy looking up at me. I stood there with this boy looking up at me with this unbelievable smile on his face, and my shirt in his hand, and I felt something stir within me. I don’t know what it was about him, whether it was that smile, or the look in his blue eyes, but without even realizing it I reached down and tousled his hair.
“That’s David, my boy,” Judy told me. “Don’t mind him.” She walked me back to the coats, David trailing behind me, and told me to select one. After I did, she surprised me by having me pick out some new clothes. When I told her I couldn’t afford them, she told me not to worry about it. Then she told me if I wanted to I could earn them by helping her man unload a truck, so that’s what I did.
The whole time Andre and I were unloading the truck, David was never more than a few feet away watching me, and after we were done, Judy invited me to stay for a meal. At the table, David sat beside me. A quiet boy who didn’t say a word, yet his bright blue eyes didn’t miss anything. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear him repeat our conversation word for word.
After the meal, Judy and David walked me to the door, and there I got two surprises. The first was Judy offered me a part time job, and the second was David laid his head against my leg in a sort of semi-hug. The first put me back on the road toward having some dignity, and the second put me on the road to having something even more important, but it took awhile for me to accept it.