40 Days: a tiny angel at the liquor store

It’s like an addiction: I’m up to 15 hours now.

Last night was pretty uneventful. For the last two hours, I joined some clergy from my parish; we prayed evening prayer, a rosary, a chaplet. One of them was down there for the first time, which is great. I hope he’ll be back.

One thing that happened before the clergy arrived is a little girl, a three-year-old, who walked down the street with her Dad and went into the liquor store across the street with him. I don’t know why it struck me so forcefully. It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong with the scene. When you have small children and want to make a quick stop at the liquor store, that’s what you do. I’m not a teetotaler.

Part of it was that, from what I could tell from across the street, she was adorable, in her little pink pants, dancing while her Dad talked to a friend. She was about the age my Anna would be. There was something very sweet in the way she held her Dad’s hand — a Dad I wouldn’t want to pick a fight with, let’s say — and the way he tenderly leaned down to help her up when she tripped and fell on the walk back.

But possibly what was so telling was how normal it all looked, unlike so many other scenes there, including other scenes last night. Children are a sign of hope, of life, of family. Even with that, sometimes when you see small children in that neighborhood, they are being pulled along by a mother yelling at them or worriedly hurrying them out of the cold and off the hard street. This scene was perfectly serene, the little girl had what seemed to be a decent coat on, and the father was there.

Yes, from all brief appearances a perfectly competent father taking care of a small child.

In a neighborhood torn by broken families and abortion and violence, that little girl and her Dad were like a rose in a briar patch, beautiful and striking and brightening the whole place.

And how much did having that father in her life have to do with that little girl not having her life ended on the other side of the street, where I was standing? I’ll never know, but you can look at the statistics and make a guess, let’s say.