by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.
We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
The night of our first snowfall on November 15 was harrowing on every level. I am grateful for the patience, care and understanding of our families as they navigated difficult weather and unbelievable traffic. Most of all, I am simply glad that everyone arrived home safely. It was a joy to spend extra time with our boys.
At just about 6:00 p.m. that evening, when the last of our young men departed from Princeton Academy on a late arriving bus, a Princeton Police car showed up at our school’s front door. I, along with our team of educators, was just about to call it a night before this unexpected arrival presented itself.
I greeted the officer at the front door and he politely asked for a favor. “In my car right now is a Dad and his 8-month-old son,” he said. “Their car spun off the road on a nearby street and a tow truck is on the way. Given the traffic, the tow truck driver has no idea when he will arrive. It could be hours. Would it be ok if this gentleman and his son stayed inside your school, warm and safe?”
Without hesitation, my response was, “yes of course.” As a school of the Sacred Heart, this is the very reason for our being. We had waited until our last boy was safely dismissed, and then, at this moment, in came another. We would wait until he and his father were safely on their way, as well.
In walked a man, holding his beautiful infant son. I could see that the man was visibly shaken - not because he showed it, but more because my empathy for him was heightened given the moment. I could only imagine how he felt on a cold and stormy night, clutching his son, in a place where he had never been. This was one of those times when we, as humans, rely on the kindness of strangers to get through; we all have these moments - they link us in humanity.
With a handshake and a hug, we welcomed our new friend into the safety of Princeton Academy. For the next 90 minutes, we made new friends. I got to know this gentleman in a rare way. He was a young father who had only moved to this area from northern New Jersey a couple of weeks earlier. In addition to being disoriented from the storm and the night, he was unfamiliar with the geography. He was a corrections officer in a major penitentiary. Our conversation traveled from stories of why he pursued a career in law enforcement, to the successes of his wife who is pursuing a career in educational administration, to, of course, his beautiful son...who at this point was sound asleep on the shoulder of Mrs. Mayer who simply could not get enough of this young baby boy :)
At about 7:15 p.m., when it was clear that the tow truck driver was not going to be able to get to the car nor to the gentleman with his son, we decided to call for an Uber. Fortunately, on this stormy night, a car was just 10 minutes away. Before saying goodbye to one another, we acknowledged that God brought us together, this family to Princeton Academy family, in a Christ-like way on this particular night for a reason. What that reason might be, neither of us knew for sure. But at the very least, we enjoyed warmth, quiet and safety together in a sacred space on a cold and stormy night, while enjoying the simple goodness of his infant son. What could be better than that?
I know that this father is just on the very precipice of his journey with his son. Who the little boy will become and what his life will hold, only time will tell. But one thing is for certain, this little boy is adored by a most gentle, caring, loving and protecting father...an irreplaceable gift that will advantage this boy in so many ways. Love and patience - it is as simple as that.
As we said goodbye and I walked my new friend and his son to the door, I took the liberty of saying to our guest, “If I may, I would just like to tell you that you are an amazing father. I could see it in your every interaction, and your son is blessed. Thank you and God Bless you. You are a great dad”. And with that, this family drove off into life with hope.
I wish everybody peace, love and safety during this blessed holiday season.
- sacred heart