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A Little Girl, a Homeless Man, and a Slice of Cheese Pizza

It was just a few years ago that I finally realized my children were going to be my greatest teachers in this life. Though I’ve had many other unexpected teachers, nobody has taught me the same lessons my pint-sized guides have.

Some of the lessons have been direct, while others have been subtle; they have made me roll down the road of pure anger at times, only to lift me off the path with a candid smile or a flower picked at just the right time. They have taught me patience, resilience, true love and self-respect, and most of all they have taught me to live in the moment.

Yesterday, unbeknownst to me, it was time for yet another lesson. My five-year-old daughter and I left the house to run errands right before lunch time; since we had spent the greater part of the morning just lazing around and playing, we were suddenly in a time crunch, so we dressed and left without eating first.

After two errands we were famished, so we stopped at a pizza restaurant to fit a couple of slices into our choked schedule. Being such a beautiful day, we took our trays outside and sat at one of the cast iron tables. The scenery was lovely – a sunny day, a happy little girl eagerly sinking her baby teeth in a warm delight of sauce and cheese over a tasty crust, and a soft breeze only softly ruffling the tender new leaves on the trees nearby. Idyllic.

Then, along came a homeless man. Clad in colorful overalls and accessorized with rain boots and a fisherman’s hat minus the hook, he slowly walked down the sidewalk toward us. He carried two plastic bags filled with his humble belongings, and he stopped occasionally to look up toward the sky, as if in a private conversation with his maker. Only about five or six feet away from us by now, he stopped by a trash can and rummaged through discarded bags. My daughter had her eyes fixed on his hands, and I could imagine little wheels spinning at high speed in her head as she tried to figure out what the man was doing.

A moment later he pulled out one of the bags, opened it, took out two discarded pizza crusts and he hungrily bit into them. Morgan watched him bite and chew, and was almost hypnotized by the scene unfolding in front of her; her gaze quickly shifted to me, and then to the man again, until it finally rested on the slice of pizza in front of her.

I watched her without saying a word, and my heart spread an inch wider when I saw her breaking the slice of pizza with her little fingers; she took one half of it, wrapped it as good as she could in one of the napkins she found on the table, and after silently looking at me she stood up and ran to the man to offer him some of her lunch.

The old man appeared stunned by the gesture. This wasn’t a grown woman, or man, dispensing pity, but a small child sharing equally with him. He smiled at her, and gently bowed his head; his lips quivered a little, but he managed to thank her. Morgan smiled back, and without a second thought came back to the table to finish her lunch.

The lesson she taught me could surely have been one of compassion, but I think she taught me something even more important. While many of us constantly worry about not having enough left if we share, her focus was on alleviating the man’s discomfort, knowing she would not go hungry. With no fear in her heart, or self-imposed limitations of abundance, she was free to live in the moment and cast a pebble of joy to create a ripple effect of good energy.

In the end, the man left happy, Morgan was satisfied with herself and ready to bite into a new slice of pizza I bought for her, and if that wasn’t enough, I dug into my pocket to retrieve my car keys and found two dollars I had forgotten were there. Everything was in perfect balance and three people were happier than thirty minutes before. And all of this for the price of half a slice of pizza…a bargain indeed.

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