Watching the world go by with... ‘ Wayfarer’
Iwas leaving the summer fair, when a three- year- old girl stepped in front of me. “Where are you taking the princess?” she asked.
As I wondered how to respond, my memory slipped back 40 years to a shop in a rough part of the city.
She was about four, at a guess, dressed in a summer frock, similar to the one being worn by my current questioner. But it was dirty. It being November she was a touch blue from the cold.
“How much is the teddy?” she asked the shopkeeper with a smile that seemed to brighten the whole shop.
The shopkeeper rolled her eyes. “More than you can afford.”
Perhaps the little one was used to disdain. Her smile didn’t lose a candle of its brightness. “But, how much is it, please? It’s for my new baby brother. I’ve been saving up. I have 50 pence.” She put the coins on the counter.
Her obvious delight in her savings touched my heart. Would it look odd for a stranger to give a little girl some money? While I wondered, the shopkeeper dismissed her. “You still can’t afford it.” “Oh, well!” She reclaimed her coins, turned on a heel, her head still high. “I will give him mine then. Bye.”
I watched her leave and thought, “Give him mine. Give him mine, not, one of mine but, mine. Her teddy. Her only one?”
A simple little moment — but it moved into my heart and lives with me. And now, another little lady, fronting up to an adult, wanting to know where was I taking the princess.
I hunkered down until I was level with the top of the box the beautiful princess doll came in. I realised then that she had been watching it, on the stall at the fair, and she had probably fallen in love with it. And here I was taking it away.
“Well I know a little girl who is feeling poorly,” I explained. “And I thought the princess might look after her and help her feel better. Do you think she might?”
The girl bit her lip and looked wistfully at the doll. After a moment, she nodded. “Yes,” she said. “She will!”
And then, perhaps because I hadn’t bought a teddy all those years ago, I sought out this little one’s mother and, between us, we found another toy to make her smile.
I left the fair content that no princesses of my immediate acquaintance were being left uncared for that day.
Children. And the way they love. It might be easy to denigrate it as, well, childish. But when you look closely enough, you understand that their loves, whether for a baby brother or a pretty doll, are all- consuming things.
Usually, the world dilutes that purity. We lose a lot of that as we grow older and we are, sadly, worse off for it.
All- consuming, self- sacrificial love. It’s no wonder they say the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as those.
Dolls and teddy bears at a craft show at Winchfield in Hampshire.