two thousand twenty
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By John Addyman

   Seeing the world from the child’s seat in the second row of the car.
   My grandson Jaden starts talking the minute he’s in his car seat. His mind is working like a video game, jumping from topic to topic, but there’s always some logical thread that runs through everything he says.
   When he’s in the car, you don’t need the radio on. And sometimes, you don’t have to scan left and right to see what’s around you, because he’s busy looking everywhere and describing what he sees. He’s a six-year-old tour guide. 

   Jaden not only describes what he sees, but adds a little history lesson with it.
   “That’s where you bought me the yogurt I didn’t like,” he tells me.
   Or, “That’s the church where the rummage sale was. I helped sweep the floor and played with the toys…remember, Granddad?”
   Wherever we go, he’s pointing things out and added personal comments.
   It’s all kind of amusing.
   But a week ago, my grandson taught me something about heart.
   He and his mom went to Walmart in Newark. As they were getting unbuckled in the car, Jaden pointed out an elderly man who was pushing a shopping cart through the parking lot.
   “Mommy, he looks lost,” Jaden said.
   My daughter Libby got Jaden out of his car seat and as they stood next to the car, the man approached them.
   He was wearing a thin jacket, and no hat. He was bald. His nose was running and his face was flushed. It was 10 degrees, and this guy had obviously been doing what he was doing for some time. He was cold.
   “Are you lost?” my daughter asked.
   “Well, yes,” the man said. He told them he couldn’t find his car, a red Toyota RAV4. He said he’d been looking for quite awhile.
    “We’ll help you find it!” Jaden told the man enthusiastically.
   And the three of them went off into that vast parking lot, looking for the gentleman’s car, which they found after six or seven minutes of searching. He was very thankful.
   Jaden has a great-grandfather at The Terrace in Newark. Although it might be unusual for a six-year-old, he’s very comfortable around older people, and very sensitive to their needs, beyond his years.
   He was thinking about Pop-Pop while he and his mom were walking back toward the Walmart entrance. The old man had started up his vehicle and was leaving the parking lot.
   “Mommy,” he asked, “where is that old man’s family?”
   “I don’t know,” Jaden’s mom answered. “Why are you asking?”
   “Because that old man looks like Pop-Pop and we would never let him get lost in the Walmart parking lot. We would probably drive him there and take him home, or we would buy the stuff he needs. That old men’s family needs to take better care of him.”
   And Jaden’s wonderful little mind was already thinking ahead, doing some problem-solving.
   “Maybe that old man could live with Pop-Pop and we could take care of him…”
   I know my grandson well enough to see the picture in his head, of him coming to visit Pop-Pop and the new roommate, the old man from the parking lot, bringing them drawings he made, running errands for them if he can, sitting there, telling them about his day and all the beautiful things he thinks about.
   My daughter was more than pleased with the feelings Jaden had expressed about the old man. “My heart filled with joy,” she said.
   Years and years ago, when my daughter was herself a child, we visited my mother, who had been sent home from the hospital after a very long stay. She was dying of emphysema and a weakened circulatory system. She could speak very little, and was reaching for every breath. Her living room downstairs had become her world.
   Libby – we called her Elisabeth then – is adopted. We thought my mom would be her favorite grandmom, but somehow, my mom could never warm to Elisabeth. The night before we left my mom’s house, Elisabeth, who couldn’t have been more than six years old at that time, waited for everyone to leave the room…and she sat down next to the bed, and held my mother’s hand for half an hour, just sitting quietly.
   My mom was barely conscious, but she knew that someone who loved her was near.
   It’s a picture I’ll always have in my mind.
   How often we wonder about our kids, and what kind of adults they’ll turn out to be. As they grow up, we can look back at things they did in childhood and draw a direct line to what they are today.
   When charity and mercy are qualities that are not lost on the very young, there’s hope for all of us.


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