We were on a scooter ride in the neighborhood, and Noah saw a man pushing a shopping cart on the road 20 feet away. "Watch out!" he yelled as a car approached. The man thanked him, moving out of the center of the street. Noah hit some uneven pavement and bailed from his scooter. The man with the cart shouted, "Be careful there! Are you alright?"
As we kept walking and scootering along next to the man and his cart, we found some things to talk about. The man asked, "Do you know Easter's coming? That's when Jesus went back up to heaven!"
"Yeah!" Noah said.
"Now you listen to your Mom, and do what's good and right, ok?"
"Mmmm hmmm," said Noah.
"I'm the youngest of 10 boys, and when my brothers went off to war, I watched all the nephews and nieces. My name's Mike. People would say, 'Here comes Mike's Army!' You like to scooter? I have a skateboard here in my cart."
"Really?" Noah asks. "Do you ride it and get hurt?"
"Sometimes," the man said. "But if you practice, you won't fall as much."
"Do you want to come with us the way we're going," Noah asks.
"No, no, you go ahead. You know, your Mom is letting you talk to me because I'm telling you what's right--to be good and listen to your Mom and stick with her cuz she'll always love you. Otherwise she'd shuffle you along to not talk to me. You see, not all homeless people are good. You listen to your Mom, OK?"
"OK." Noah nods. "Have a good day!"
"You too, son. And you too, Lady." [Noah and he shake hands. I have never seen a dirtier hand in my life. But something happened inside of me when I saw my son's little hand shake his. Something unearthly. Something surreal.]
This man was holding a half-full bottle of alcohol. He had a tattered American Flag bandana around his neck. His eyes were the purest blue I've ever seen. I don't know if he was dangerous. I don't know if he was drunk. I don't know if I should have let Noah interact with him. I was there, on high alert, and ready to run and scream or use pepper spray if I had to. My instincts were that he was safe but dirty. And I didn't want Noah to be afraid of this person simply because he was homeless. Noah showed no signs of feeling uncomfortable. So I gave him a little slack on the leash. That few minute interaction will be stored in my heart forever: seeing my son effortlessly relate to this man without registering his appearance, cleanliness, or eccentricity.