Our neighbor, Mr. Chen, enthusiastically returned my “Good morning,” adding a heartfelt, “Isn’t the weather great today!” As I watched him walk on with a spring in his step and a beaming smile that eclipsed his graying hair and wrinkles, I couldn’t help but marvel. Until recently, Mr. Chen had barely acknowledged my greetings, and he rarely smiled or talked to anyone. Chronic health struggles had left their mark in the depressed frown, slumped shoulders, and slow gait that seemed to characterize him. What could have brought about this wonderful change?
When I told my sister about this, she replied that his daughter had recently become a mother. “He’s rejoicing over his new grandson!” she said. I shook my head in awe at how much fulfillment, joy, and purpose a helpless, screaming infant had brought to Mr. Chen.
Mr. Chen’s transformation reminded me of what a bundle of joy and inspiration my cousin Katie has been to my grandmother. A year ago, a massive stroke took a severe toll on Grandma’s memory capacity, communication skills, and mobility. Chronic headaches and discomforts, and the resultant discouragement and frustration, left her silent, sullen, and sedentary. She began spending her waking hours dozing in a chair or watching television, and any efforts to talk to her were met with disinterest.
Then Katie was born. Even when Katie was only a few days old, Grandma spent hours leaning over her crib, rocking her, listening to her coo, and playing with her tiny fingers. When she was a year old, Katie would sit on Grandma’s lap and share her toys with her. Now at two years old, she loves to clasp Grandma’s wrinkled hand in her tiny pudgy one and pull her outside for a walk.
Grandma’s physical condition hasn’t improved, but Katie still makes her smile, talk, and even laugh. There is truly something magical about children’s love and innocence and their ability to melt and cheer hearts in ways that grown-ups can’t, just as Mr. Chen’s grandson touched him and Katie touched Grandma.