Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Compliment from a Stranger

Sometimes, we get compliments from strangers that affirm what we already know about the people we love.

The other Sunday, John, Kathy and I were attending Mass at the Greenbelt chapel, a modern, circular structure surrounded by ponds and gardens. Families with young children usually listen to the Mass from this grassy area outside the chapel to keep their noisy youngsters from disturbing people quietly praying inside the church. We, too, prefer to stay outside so John could easily walk around the chapel when he gets restless, as he is wont to do when he sometimes finds the homily uninteresting.

John had stayed through the end of the homily when we noticed a Caucasian man scolding an Asian woman who was carrying a child who looked like the baby could be their child.

He was very agitated and told her to stay put at that spot, which happened to be near where we were standing. Then he left her and we wondered if the woman was his wife or his baby’s yaya (nanny). We wondered what she did that earned his ire. Moments later, he was back again, mumbling something at her before leaving again, weaving in and out of the big crowd that attends the 4:30pm Mass. He was still huffing and puffing when he came back again, and continued to scold her. We were not sure if they were having a marital spat but when we heard the man say, “You should have looked at where he was going,” we knew right away that he was concerned about a missing child.

John approached him immediately and escorted him to a security guard who quickly notified other guards in the area. I saw both John and the man walk back and forth, passing in front of me several times as they scoured the area both inside and outside the church. Kathy left me to do her own search until I could not see her anymore. (Based on her own insight – there were at least a couple of instances when she was separated from us when she was a child - she went a little farther from the church, going to the places where she thought little children would be attracted to go – to the fountain, the pond where ducks swam, and to the restaurants).

When it was communion time, and people were queuing to receive the Holy Sacrament, I thought I should look for John and this man to suggest that they make the announcement using the public address system of the church, but John was already on his way inside the church with the missing child’s father.

The mass lector made the announcement about a missing three-year-old boy, describing him as wearing blue pants, blue shirt and white slippers. The priest, an elderly American by the name of Fr. Jim Perry, made an additional appeal to anyone who may have seen the boy and offered a short prayer for them to be reunited, and then finally, the father himself appealed to the mass goers, describing his son once more and adding that he did not speak any English or Tagalog as the mother is Thai (He did not say where the mother was at the moment). Just a couple of minutes later, before the final prayers were said, Fr. Perry announced that the little boy had been found. The mass goers clapped their hands in hearty cheer. (He was found by the park security, wandering - unfazed and not crying- near Café Breton, more than 50 meters from the church).

While this afternoon drama was going on, an elderly woman who stood beside me, noticing what John was doing, faced me and remarked, “Your husband is a good man. I hope there will be more people like him.” After the father and the son were reunited, John and Kathy came back to where they left me, and I asked the elderly woman to repeat to John what she said to me. Lightly touching him on the shoulder, she said, “You are a good man.” I proudly nodded in agreement, whispering to John, “I’ve always known that.” But as she probably did not notice Kathy join the search for the missing boy, I whispered to Kathy, “I’m proud of you, too.”

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