A happy Christmas story for your soul

by Janelle Hanchett


I realize the title of this post and my history of twisted sarcasm have probably led you to suspect that I’m about to tell a dark saga involving tyrannical children and poop, but I’m actually not. I’m actually going to tell you a happy Christmas story, as indicated. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa. Or every-other-day if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.


It’s happy. And it’s Christmastime (for us). Therefore, it’s a happy Christmas story.

For your soul.

A couple weeks ago, Rocket, Georgia and I were in a restaurant. It was lunchtime and the place was pretty full. While waiting for our food, I was doing the usual follow-Georgia-around-the-restaurant-because-she’ll-only-sit-in-the-high-chair-for-12-and-a-half-minutes-and-I-need-to-save-it-for-when-the-food-actually-comes routine, which involves, of course, her stomping around the restaurant with great determination (though without destination), and me following, fielding glares from people when she falls on the floor and they look at me like “what kind of mother are you, letting your toddler touch that dirty ground.”

And with my eyes I say “bite me you judgmental childless bat.”

That’s not what I meant.

Yes it is. Because anybody who’s ever had a kid knows that most of them, at one point, learn to walk, and learning to walk involves FALLING, and falling kids aren’t interested in holding their mother’s hands. Do you know I’ve received at least 3 comments from strangers telling me I should hold my kid’s hand? Whatever.

Why am I always off topic?

So we’re walking around at an alarmingly rapid pace when all of a sudden Georgia stops dead in her tracks. Just stops completely and fixates on a very old, frail, kind-looking man sitting next to his wife. He was smiling at Georgia.

Georgia’s face was serious and focused, like she was trying to understand him. She then did something I have never seen her do to any stranger. Keeping her eyes on his, she put both hands up in the universal “pick me up” gesture. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it.

With some effort he pushed back his chair and turned around toward her. And with shaking hands this old man reached down and lifted up my daughter as she walked confidently into his arms. With determination that matched hers, he struggled to set her in his lap, facing him. She then, without hesitation, rested her head on his chest with all the calmness and serenity I’ve ever seen in her.

By now many people in the restaurant were watching, struck by a pretty interesting turn of events.

He patted her back and I felt like I was witnessing something that mattered, though I couldn’t figure out how. I didn’t say a word.

She lifted her head, looked up at him intently, then rested it on his chest again.

His face glowed, his eyes lit up with joy and pride and delight. They fell shut for a moment, as if he were trying to hold this moment completely in his mind.

She looked up into his face one more time, turned, and crawled off his lap, then kept stomping along her way.

It was one of those things in life that is so unexpected and inexplicable you roll it over and over in your head but can’t make sense of it. Why that guy? Why then? Why so much affection? What was her draw to this particular man?

When I told Mac the story he said something that rocked my soul.

He said “I wonder if he is about to die, and Georgia related to him, you know, like two people on either end. Maybe she knew he was like her, close to the source but on the other end.”

Now I’m not stupid enough to start talking about the “G” word on my blog. (God, not Georgia). I will only say that since having my first kid, it’s been apparent to me that young children are tuned into something that most adults have missed for a very, very long time – for whatever reason.

Maybe it’s just an incredible presence – an ability to stay right in the moment, all the time, in complete openness to whatever comes and where, evidently, miraculous gestures of love occur.

Where old men get hugs from toddlers they don’t know and whole restaurants get to see two complete strangers connect in love, on a level of existence that doesn’t make sense to most of us.

A moment of compassion and acceptance and truth. A moment of embrace. A very old, shaking man, and a bright, energetic toddler – a child who paused and took a moment to see him, see all of him, see his soul. And she saw that it needed something. A hug, perhaps, particularly.

And so, she gave it to him.

It was as if he was an old friend.

When he left, he patted Georgia’s head gently and she grinned and he looked at me with a knowing smile. There was a tear in his eye.

Perhaps they both understood.


What does she see?

42 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | December 21, 2011
  • Quiet Monsters

    WOW. Innocence, wisdom, compassion, and love…I think Mac is absolutely right-there was something bigger going on than just a momentary hug. How freaking cool that you got to witness that!

  • Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School

    tears are actually running down my face.

    such a powerful story.

  • Cailin

    Ahhhh. You got me with this one. Thank you

  • Michael Ann

    Wow. No tears yet but a huge lump in my throat. That was incredibly moving. Maybe Mac is right. But you know what my first thought was? Maybe she recognized him. His soul. From another life or from the universe or something. Ok, I know I’m kooky and out there about that, but too many experiences with people in my life make me believe in that. That connection you have because yours souls already know each other. That was my thought.

    Whatever it was there was truly something between them. So touching. I will be thinking about this for a long time. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

  • Jennifer

    That was beautiful. As your daughter is, clearly.

  • Leslie

    I love this.

  • Shan


  • Vic

    So beautiful. Best post ever. Tears overflowing over here…

  • Lisa

    Oh, great. Go ahead and make me cry. Maybe he is on his way out. Or maybe, maybe. . . there is something to the idea that she recognized him, or recognized a feeling of love within him that made her calm and happy. Some people just have that feeling (where in the world does Cesar Milan get all that effing calm from? And can he loan me some? But I digress. . . ). I’m not going to get all religious on you but reincarnation. . . the possibility has touched my thoughts more than once. No matter where it came from, I am glad for you, and her, and your family. . . and the old man. Chances like that don’t come too often, when they do, let’s hug them tight.

    • Steven

      I’m with you Lisa, recognizing that Georgia saw something non-threatening in that man-at-peace, which satisfied a need in her.

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    This story made me tear up. I think you’re right, I think kids definitely have a sixth sense that helps them know when someone needs a pick me up whether it be in the form of a hug or a smile.

    I wish you could follow up with this man and his wife. I would love to hear what that hug meant for him.

  • Kateri Von Steal


  • Karen

    Fantastic story.

  • Judy Irving

    I got all teary, too. It’s true: affection is the “ground” of the universe. Some people tap into it, some don’t. They both did.

  • annie

    Beautiful…just had a small random little boy ask to give me a hug at work today, so this really hits home.

  • Rachel

    Another gorgeous post. You are such a multidimensional writer – love it all! 🙂

  • Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    I am not a person who cries much. Cause I’m all badass and tough. However, you had me at “Just stops completely and fixates on a very old, frail, kind-looking man sitting next to his wife.”

    My 2 1/2 year old has always been like that. At 16 months, a VERY similiar thing happened with a gentleman in the park. My kid doesn’t go to anyone, ever. It’s all mama all the time. So when she so lovingly offered herself to this 90 year old man with dementia, I knew that something much bigger than my awareness was transpiring.

    Your story and your daughter are beautiful. Hold and cherish this memory because this part of life, the one where we are so unabashedly connected and open to the rest of the universe, is fleeting. Unless your kid has a gift. And then, get ready for a hell of a ride.

  • Marisa

    I love this story. First thing that popped into my head was that they might of knew each other in another life. What a wonderful thing to witness. I like Mac’s theory.

  • dani

    This is perfect.

  • Jo Eberhardt

    This is such a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes.

    My gorgeous son used to do that kind of thing all the time. He’s nearly 5 now, and he still has moments where he’ll see people in the shopping centre and need to go over and say something nice to them, or give them a hug. But it was more pronounced when he was younger.

    Just before he turned two, he spent a couple of days with his grandmother at her retirement village. One day they were walking around the complex when he took off and run up the path of one of the houses. His grandmother called him back, telling him it wasn’t the right house, but he persisted.

    Just as he got to the door, the elderly lady who lived there opened the door to see what was happening. My boy looked up at her, this woman he’d never seen before in his life, gave her a big smile and said, “I love you.”

    The lady started crying, and reached down to give him a hug, and then told him to wait there for a minute. She went back inside, and then came back with a beautiful hand-knitted teddy bear and gave it to him.

    We found out later that ten minutes before this happened, the lady received a phone call telling her that her younger sister had passed away. She was sitting in her house in shock, trying to think of a single reason to keep living.

    And she got one.

    • renegademama

      This was a lovely, lovely comment. Thanks for telling me this story. You’re a great writer.

  • Corinne

    Gahhhhhhhhhhh so beautiful, she is an old soul! A
    She had a destination!

  • Amelia

    My daughter picked her Daddy in a similar way to this.

    We were in a coffee shop at 7pm. I was preparing for a long night of studying; she was running around being her usual 18 month old self, running around and growling at everyone. Then she paused, ran over to a man who had just walked in and demanded “hug” with her arms reaching for him. That was almost 3 years ago and we have been together since that moment. The universe has a strange way of connecting people who are meant to be together.

  • Amanda Zamudio

    Wow!! Absolutely love this story <3 thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  • Jodi Bartle

    I think you are on to something. I have wondered the same thing.
    On another note, I totally relate to the Judging Eyes From The Public. And, this morning, while running my children to school (running them like dogs because we were late because they won’t hurry up) I FELL OVER and the baby was squashed in between me and the baby sling and the concrete and the actual dog ran off and the other kids were crying and everyone was LOOKING. And judging. And so I cried.

  • V

    Tears….wow. I just stumbled upon your blog. I am pregnant now with my first child and someone on another blog linked to your beautiful description of how you are so utterly changed after becoming a mother. You are so talented. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your life with us in such a touching, human, and funny, way!

  • Melanie

    You have an amazing daughter. One day she will conquer the world and be the Supreme Ruler of Earth. I have no doubt about it.

  • Dondi

    Thanks for this; it really made my day. You are clearly made of awesome.

  • Alex

    Wow .. That is just Beautiful. Thank goodness you’re the Mom who lets your kid roam free because you know her, and not try to duct-tape her to the chair. I really think you guys get what life is about. All the best, Alex.

  • Aimee

    Holy fuck. That was beautiful

  • Mirth Forest

    Love this. It is **so clearly** an episode of instant recognition…. what more does it take to convince us? She has met him before, recognized his higher self/soul despite his wrinkled body, and will meet him again after crossing over. This was someone very important to her….she has spent lifetimes with… just a little heart-to-heart hello this time. Perhaps a guide or guardian of hers? There are no coincidences, and children have no reason to doubt or question. How different this world would be if only adults could remember what your daughter taught you that day!

  • Lara

    I’m new to your blog and just had to say hi and I love love love this story. How beautiful!

    Also, I’m the mother of one of “those” kids, too. Actually, it’s looking like I might have two of them, but I’m still not sure about the 15-month-old – he’s a wild man like his brother, but sometimes he actually listens to me. He’s still young, and there’s still plenty of time for him to turn into a total fucking nutcase.

  • Nicole

    Oh my god! Tears. This is beautiful. Thank you.

  • Bonnie

    I cried. I don’t believe in God or gods (although if the viking dudes wanted to make an appearance I could totally get behind that…) but I do believe in the truth of humanity and the understanding of each other as people, that can get sullied by perception and ridiculous ideas.

    This story made me happy. Thank you.

  • Jess

    It took me 30 minutes to look up this particular story so I could thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing it. I must have read it sometime after Thanksgiving 2013. My nephew is a clingy little monkey who rarely leaves his mother’s side, but at our Thanksgiving dinner last year he was all about Pappaw. We knew my grandpa was sick at the time, but it was just a “kidney thing” and nothing to worry about. They’d done all the tests and didn’t find anything alarming. They sent him home with nothing to report more times than I can remember.

    When I read this story I knew. I just knew that he wasn’t going to get better this time and that we’d better make the most of our time. So we did. This story helped us prepare to tell him good-bye and give him anything and everything he wanted while the doctors kept telling us nothing was wrong.

    I wish there was some way I could hug you and Georgia for what you gave me. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.

  • Traci

    When we were on hospice death watch for my grandmother, my daughter was about 2 and a half years old. We were all half thinking the would pull through, and half knowing she wouldn’t. My girl would tell me every night, “I can’t sleep because all the people are around!” What people? Who were they? Was she scared? What did they look like? She was nervous, but not frightened. Every single night for 5 days, we went through this, to the point where she was starting to not sleep any longer. She couldn’t tell me anything about who they were (of course not) or what they wanted, just that there were many of them and they were very noisy. The night she passed, she slept with no problem, but I stayed in hospice to do that bizarre last breath thing (so weird, so surreal.) The next night, as we laid in bed together, I asked if they were still around. “No, they’re all gone now. Where do you think they went, mommy?”

    Children, man. The veil is thin. They know, and it’s amazing to watch two hearts be able to speak to each other like that.

  • Jessica W

    This was exactly what my overwhelmed, achy, grinch heart needed today. Thank you, thank you for sharing!

  • Justamom

    This is one of my favorites ever. You should put it under posts that don’t suck. It definitely doesn’t suck. It might even be worth reading on more than one occasion. Thanks.

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