A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Jon loved his new hat.

It was light blue, which turns out to be a very trendy color in sports paraphernalia these days.  And it bore the logo of his favorite professional sports franchise.  Plus it fit on his head perfectly – not an easy thing, since he has his father’s noggin (“noggin” sounds so much cooler and more socially acceptable than “fat head,” don’t you think?).

All of which is why he wore the hat everywhere – even when we made a trip to the family shelter a couple of weeks ago.  The call had gone out for winter coats and jackets, and we had a few that I had . . . well, you know . . . outgrown.  So we loaded them in the car along with the kids, hoping to set a good example of caring, giving and serving.

It was lunchtime, and many of the folks who were staying at the shelter were lining up for a bite to eat.  We dropped off the jackets and were heading around the block when I noticed a mother and her two young sons standing in the line, huddled together against a brisk winter breeze.  I found myself wishing I hadn’t deposited the jackets in the donation box so I could have given them directly to this woman and her children.

Evidently, great minds think alike – even if they are encased in fat heads.

“Dad, did you see that boy?” Jon asked softly as we drove down the street. “Back there, with his mom and little brother.  He was about my age.”

“Yeah, I saw them,” I said.  “They looked kind of cold, didn’t they?”

“Yeah, they did.”

Jon paused – a long, thoughtful pause.  “Do you think he’d like my hat?” he asked.

I hesitated.  “I’m sure he’d love it,” I said at last.  “But Jon – it’s your favorite hat.”

Jon looked at me with more intensity than I had seen in his sweet, gentle eyes – ever.

“Dad, can we go back?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “If you’re sure you want to.”

He smiled.  “I’m sure,” he said.  “Let’s go.”

We circled the block and found a place to park.  Jon and I got out of the car and walked toward the lunch line, where the boy and his family had just received their food.  Jon took his hat off and brushed a few specks of lint off the brim as he walked directly, without fear or hesitation, toward the young man.  But when the two boys were face-to-face, Jon froze.  They stood there for a moment, looking at each other, each unsure of what to say or do.

  Jon looked at me.

“My son was wondering if you would like a new hat,” I said.

The boy looked at his mother, who smiled as Jon held the hat out.

“Would you like to have that hat?” she asked her son.

The boy’s enthusiastic smile was all the answer that was needed.  Jon reached over and put his hat on his new friend’s head, and for a moment they shared a smile – and a hat.

“Thank you,” the boy’s mother said.  “It’s so cold.”

“I hope it helps,” I said.  “And it looks good on him!”

I’m not sure Jon’s feet touched the sidewalk as we walked back to the car.  We glanced back to see the boy proudly showing his new hat to others in line.

“He likes it!” Jon said, every bit as excited as he was when he received the hat.  He continued watching until the splash of light blue disappeared from view.

Jon sighed.  Deeply.  Profoundly.  Contentedly.

“That feels good!” he said.

And I was trying to set a good example of caring, giving and serving for him?

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— © Joseph Walker

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