It was just another day without a home for Eric when he chose to help a little girl who was lost at the railway station. Little did he know that his simple act of kindness was the beginning of his second chance at life.
It was a rather crowded day at the railway station. ‘Of course, the holidays are here,’ Eric thought, looking at the swarm of people rushing out of the train.
‘Just look at them. They work endlessly all year and then overspend on trips just for a photo or to meet people they don’t even like.’
A clink on the floor in front of him interrupted his internal rant.
“God bless you, sir,” Eric blurted out of habit. He carefully placed the fallen coin with the other coins in his hat. He shook his head with a grin as he did it.
‘Well, this is my reality, isn’t it? Homeless and cynical. What a combination!’ Eric chuckled at his own tragedy.
He gazed at the crowd once again. This time, his face didn’t have a smug smile. Instead, he looked worried.
Behind the constant waves of human beings pacing in every direction, he saw a little girl standing still. The girl looked no older than seven or eight years, and she was sobbing in a corner, away from the crowd. Her eyes frantically looked around, searching for someone. The crowd was too busy getting late for their next destination to even notice her.
‘Good Lord, the girl seems lost. And not one among these hundreds of humans brushing past her is willing to stop and ask. Isn’t that just great? And you call yourselves civilized!’ Eric admonished the crowd in his head.
He got up, dusting off the dirt on his clothes. He used his fingers to tidy his unkempt hair and beard. He didn’t want the girl to be scared of him when he approached her.
“Hey, petal. What are you doing here?” Eric said in a playful British accent.
The little girl shuddered at the sudden voice from behind her. But something about the cartoony voice calmed her down. She looked back and stared at the man in the oversized coat.
“Are you lost, deary?” Eric asked.
The girl burst out crying. “I’m sorry, sir. Mom and Dad asked me not to speak with strangers. But I can’t find them.” Eric’s heart ached at the little girl’s frightened voice.
“Don’t worry, petal. We’ll find them in no time. They’re probably getting some candy for you.”
“I don’t like candy. It makes your teeth go yellow. Like yours.” The girl pointed at Eric’s teeth.
Eric quickly covered his teeth and said, “Oh. Looks like we’ve got a smart one here. Well, why didn’t you tell me before I ate all that candy, eh?”
The girl wiped her tears and chuckled.
“And what’s your name, little one?” Eric asked. The girl hesitated. “Well, how can we find your parents if I don’t know your name, deary?”
The girl thought for a bit and nodded. “It’s Joanna. Joanna Bloomingdale.”
Eric was pleasantly surprised. His eyes welled up thinking of the name. It was his mother’s name. He quickly regrouped himself and said, “Nice to meet you, Joanna. I’m Eric. Let’s go on the adventure of finding the Bloomingdales, shall we?” Eric said it with a playful spring in his step, successfully making Joanna laugh.
“Now tell me, how do the Bloomingdales look? Are they short and fat and wear torn clothes like me?”
“No,” Joanna laughed. “My dad is a businessman, and he likes to wear suits. Today, he’s wearing a blue suit. And my mom is wearing a trench coat.”
“Oh! The Bloomingdales are fancy, aren’t they?”
Joanna laughed and nodded. Eric spotted an employee of the train station walking at a distance. He gestured to Joanna to follow.
“Could you please help us find this girl’s parents?”
The station employee noted a few details and asked Joanna to wait in the main office. Joanna hesitated and asked if Eric could join her. Eric obliged. They sat together in the station office, hoping her parents would come for her.
A true family is forever.
“Can I ask you something, sir?” Joanna asked Eric, who smiled and nodded. “I noticed you spoke normally with the station employee. But you spoke in a British accent when you met me. Why?”
“Joanna!” Eric and Joanna heard a loud voice behind them.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Joanna was thrilled to see her parents. She ran towards her mother and hugged her. “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry. I don’t know how I got lost.”
Joanna’s mother simply held her, crying. She noticed the homeless man, who was with Joanna, trying to sneak out of the station. She stared at him and shouted, “Wait!”
Eric stopped in his tracks without turning back. Joanna said, “No, mom. He’s not a bad guy. He helped me find–”
“Eric, is that you?” Joanna’s mother said, shivering.
Eric turned around slowly and removed his cap.
“Hi, Justine,” Eric said with tears in his eyes.
Justine ran towards Eric and hugged him, while Joanna and her father, Russel, were surprised and confused.
“I’ve been searching for you for the last ten years!”
“Sorry, sis! Life just didn’t turn out the way I thought.”
Eric and Justine lost their parents many years ago. A year later, their grandmother, who took care of them, also passed away. Justine was 23, and Eric was 15. Eric’s custody was naturally given to Justine.
She tried her best to make end meet and urged Eric to pick up some of the responsibility as well. She recommended he take the janitorial position at the clinic nearby, but Eric had other plans. He wanted to become an actor.
Justine could not afford to pay for his acting lessons. She didn’t feel it was a sustainable option.
“What if you don’t make it, Eric? How will we survive?”
“I know I will. And thanks for the confidence.”
They fought every other day until Eric decided to leave for another city. But living on his own wasn’t easy at all. Things went downhill quickly, and Eric ended up on the streets.
Justine apologized for not being there for Eric.
“I never stopped looking for you, my dear. I failed. But I’m going to be there for you now.” Eric couldn’t stop crying.
“Yes, Eric. Justine told me about you. I’m glad Joanne found you,” Russel interjected.
After the siblngs exchanged a few hugs and tears in silence, Russel stepped in with an idea.
“You must come with us, Eric. Life put us here together for a reason.”
Eric stood still with his eyes lowered, not knowing how to respond to this overwhelmingly kind suggestion from the man he was meeting for the first time in his life.
“Listen, I know it is a big decision for you. We can’t just whisk you away, not without you feeling comfortable with it. But here’s what I suggest…”
“Before we bumped into you, Joanna, Justine, and I were on a trip. It is a trip we decided to take after three long years of working hard, to remind ourselves that life is about more than just paying bills and meeting goals.”
“And I want you to join us on this trip. I don’t believe that it is a coincience that we found you on the first destination of our trip across California.”
Justine was pleased with Russel’s considerate suggestion. And Joanna had already gripped her newfound uncle’s hand.
“You have to come, Eric! We’re stopping at Disneyland next! Maybe you can hold me on the scarier rides…”
Eric was humbled and speechless, and the most he could do was nod his head in agreement.
And so began a two-week long trip of the reunited family.
On the fantasy-ridden Disneyland, Joanna didn’t leave Eric’s side, and Justine and Eric became little children themselves – living a sliver of the childhood they never had.
In San Francisco, Eric was in every picture that the family clicked on the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.
On Monterey Bay, they sat around bonfires and heard Eric sing and play the guitar in his mesmerizing voice.
And finally, in Yosemite Park, Justine and Russel were sitting by the lake, taking in the sweet relaxation, forgetting their otherwise stressful life. Eric watched them talk and laugh, while little Joanna was sleeping on Justine’s lap. That moment, a warm breeze soothed the rocks and ripples, and a new feeling washed over Eric.
He decided that it was time to grab his second chance at life and get it right this time.
A week since Eric moved in with his sister’s family, Joanna asked him casually, “Can you please, please do that British accent again?”
Eric obliged, and while Justine and Joanna had a giggle, Russel had another inspired idea.
“Eric! My production company is launching a new kids’ cartoon show on the internet. Do you think you can lend your voice to a few of the characters?”
Since then, Eric landed several voice acting gigs and became a regular voice on the local radio. Things had started looking up for Eric, and every time he told the story of his life to aspiring young creatives, he never failed to mention that seemingly ordinary afternoon at the railway station that changed his life forever.
What do we learn from this story?
A true family is forever. Despite their fights, Justine never stopped looking for Eric. She had vowed to take care of Eric but could not stop him from leaving her. Fate eventually brought them together, and this time, Justine managed to guide Eric with Russel’s help.
Children have a way of creating miracles. Eric stayed away from Justine because he was ashamed of running away. He felt that Justine would never forgive him. But miraculously, he found Joanne, which helped him reunite with his sister.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.