The patrons of a prestigious Boston tea house watch approvingly as an old homeless man is kicked out into the cold, but then one little girl stands up.
It was one of those bitterly cold Boston Sundays when the wind cuts like a knife, but the Rolson family, Hank, Frieda, and their nine-year-old daughter, Evie, were sitting snug and warm in their favorite teashop, The Queen’s Teapot, enjoying a lovely afternoon tea.
The Queen’s Teapot is justly famous for its wonderful scones with cream and strawberry jam, and its dainty delicious proper British sandwiches — ham and cucumber and pate and salmon. What the Queen’s Teapot wasn’t known for was the kind of customer that walked in through the door that fateful afternoon.
The manager was running a complacent eye over the tables full of well-dressed and well-heeled customers, all drinking and eating to their heart’s content, when her eye snagged on the man shambling through the door over her lovely Persian carpet.
He was thin and pale as death, his face thickly covered by an unkempt beard, while his trembling body huddled in the thinnest of coats. “Please!” The man touched a passing waiter on the arm with a skeletal hand. “Please help me!”
The manager stepped forward and confronted the man. “Sir, I must ask you to leave. These premises are for customers only!”
The man turned towards her, hope in his hollow eyes. “Please,” he whispered, “I’m freezing. Could you give me something warm to drink and a piece of bread?”
“I said,” the manager stressed, “Get out.”
The man looked at her and whispered. “I’ve been on these streets for seven years, but today I think I might die if I don’t get warm.”
The manager pressed her lips together. “Don’t give me sob stories, mister, I’ve heard them all!” she snapped. “There’s a homeless shelter three blocks down, go sell your snake oil there!”
Sometimes the pure hearts of children see truths we’ve forgotten.
By then the customers had noticed the little exchange between the beggar and the manager. One elegant older woman said to her husband, “Really, the homeless are shameless! To come into a place like this! It’s outrageous!”
A slim, fastidious man in a purple velvet jacket said to his companion as he nibbled on a shrimp cracker with lobster pate, “Honestly, the sight of those rags robs me of my appetite!”
“Ridiculous!” gasped Frieda Rolson to her husband. “There are places for these people, and that is where they should stay!” Throughout all this, little Evie was watching with her huge eyes.
Finally, the homeless man gave up. He turned his back and shuffled out in his newspaper-stuffed old shoe. He didn’t go far. He sat on a bench right in front of the Queen’s Teapot and huddled there.
Inside the restaurant, everyone had gone back to their conversations and their tea, everyone except Evie. Evie carefully filled her cup to the brim with hot tea, and added sugar. Then she piled her plate with the little sandwiches and scones — as much as she could carry.
She shrugged on her warm winter coat and walked out into that freezing afternoon, cup and plate in hand. As her parents and the other patrons of the Queen’s Teapot watched, she sat down next to the homeless man on the bench and offered him the hot tea.
The old man stared at Evie in astonishment and wrapped his cold hands around the hot teacup. “God bless you,” he whispered through cracked lips. “God bless your beautiful heart!”
“Drink it,” Evie said. “I hope you like sugar because I put in lots — for the energy! And have some of these sandwiches. You need to build up your strength!”
The man was looking at Evie with the oddest expression, and tears were sliding down his cheeks. Evie noticed and whipped out her hankie. She tenderly wiped away the man’s tears.
“Please don’t cry!” she said. “You’ll see, everything is going to be alright!”
Evie sat next to the man until he finished the food and the tea. “Thank you, little girl. You may not know it, but you’ve saved my life,” the man said.
“Will you be alright now?” Evie asked, worried.
The man nodded. “I’ll walk to the shelter, I feel stronger now,” he said. Evie pulled out some mittens from her pocket. They were bright pink and had kittens embroidered on them.
“Take these, they stretch a lot — I know cause I made my dad try them — and they are really warm!” Evie said.
The man solemnly pulled on the bright pink mittens and nodded. “Thank you, now I’ll be warm.” He got up, and without another word, walked away down the street, where the snow was starting to flutter down again.
Evie took the cup and the plate back into the teashop and sat down again. “Evie, how could you! That man was filthy!” cried her mother.
Her father was frowning. “I don’t want you mixing with that kind of person ever again,” he said. “You don’t know who he is or where he’s been!”
Evie was staring at them in astonishment. “Oh! I just thought he was hungry and poor and sad,” she said. “When we were in church today, the reverend said…He said we should see Jesus in everyone in need. I thought…”
Frieda and Hank Rolson looked at each other. Tears gathered in Frieda’s eyes. “Oh Evie,” she whispered. “You thought right!” and she knelt by her daughter’s chair and hugged her.
“I’m sorry Evie,” Hank said gently. “You did a kind and loving thing. Out of all the people here today, you were the only one who saw that man through the eyes of love.”
That afternoon, the Rolsons went down to the shelter to make sure the old man was alright. Later, Mr. Rolson started a foundation to help homeless people find jobs, and Mrs. Rolson started volunteering at the soup kitchen — all thanks to Evie.
What can we learn from this story?
- Look at the people around you not in judgment, but with the eyes of love and charity. Everyone criticized the man, but only Evie acted to help him.
- Sometimes the pure hearts of children see truths we’ve forgotten. Evie’s kindness reminded her parents of their humanity.
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If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a man who discovers that his elderly neighbor had been living in her broken-down old car since her husband passed away.
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