Eight-year-old David was begging for money outside a mall when he noticed a homeless man staring at him for a long time. He ran away thinking this person was dangerous, but he caught him and explained something shocking about the boy’s past.
David Donaldson stood outside International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa, Florida, and couldn’t hold back his tears. His face was covered in wet streaks, and most people only looked at him for a second before they continued walking. He was there to try to raise money for his mother’s funeral.
David’s mother died after a long battle with cancer, and the funeral home was waiting for the money to pay for everything. The manager was worried about the kid, but David had lied to him, explaining that his uncle was coming soon and would be paying for everything.
Sadly, David didn’t have any family left. He was staying at the apartment, but the rent was due soon. He would not be able to pay, and others would soon discover what was going on. They would call CPS, and he would go into the system.
He hated that idea. That’s why he was at the mall, begging people for money. Some shoppers were familiar with the little boy because he also tried to raise funds throughout his mother’s treatment. They would give him a dollar or two before calling the cops. Luckily, David was able to get away from them.
But now, his mother was finally gone, and she deserved to have a nice service. So, once again, he stood outside there with a sign where he wrote what he needed.
After a long sniffle, David dried his tears, thinking that people might be avoiding him because of his crying. He needed that money, so he had to be brave and stop. But once he cleared his eyes using his hands, David saw someone strange. A man was looking at him from the other side of the street. His stare was unnerving.
The man was dressed in tattered clothing, and it was clear he was homeless. David feared he would become like him soon. But an even scarier thought crossed his mind. What if he wants to steal my money? No! My mom needs it!
David gathered his hat from the floor where people had thrown some extra change and started counting. He placed them inside his pocket quickly and raised his head just to see the man cross the street and walk directly toward him.
The boy’s blood went cold, but he had to think fast. That’s when he stood and raced out of there. He could hear the heavy footsteps of the man running after him, and the man yelled, “Wait boy, I want to talk to you!”
“No! This is my mother’s money! Go away!” David screamed back but didn’t slow his pace.
“I don’t want your money, boy! Please, stop!”
The boy didn’t listen, but unfortunately, he entered a dead-end alley and couldn’t escape. “Please, sir. This money is very important. My mother just died, and I need to pay for the funeral,” David pleaded with the man, clutching his right hand over his right pocket where he kept the cash.
The man stopped and approached him slowly now. David could see his unclean state and ragged shirt, but there was something familiar about his face. He also had kind eyes. Maybe he wasn’t lying.
“Again, I don’t want your money, boy. I read your sign. You said your mother died? Can you tell me her name?” the man asked, smiling slightly.
“Maria,” David answered shyly.
“What about you? What’s your name?”
The man closed his eyes and nodded. Then he looked at the ground, and David could hear his heavy breathing.“Oh, man,” the man whispered and started crying.
“Sir, are you ok? Did you know my mother?” David asked, taking a small step towards the man.
“Yes. I knew her,” the man replied. “But I can’t believe she’s gone. I’m a horrible man.”
“Maria… I mean, your mother was my girlfriend around nine years ago. My name is Charlie Donaldson,” the man answered and looked up at him. David could see the tears in his eyes and the sadness in his expression.
“Why do you have my last name?” David questioned, although the eight-year-old was no fool. He already guessed the reason.
“I’m pretty sure I’m your father, kid,” the man revealed.
The boy had no idea what to say, but it was probably true. The man’s face had looked familiar because they shared the same green eyes.
“Ok, so you don’t want to take my money,” David added, just to confirm.
Charlie laughed bitterly. “No, David. I would never do that. I fell on hard times, and that’s why I’m homeless, but I would not take money from a child. Besides, you need to pay for Maria’s funeral, right? That’s what your sign said.”
“Yeah. It’s expensive,” the boy said, scratching the back of his head with one hand.
“Let me ask you something else. Who are you staying with? An aunt or an uncle?”
“Maria told me she had a sister,” Charlie stated with a frown. He wiped the tears that had streaked his face and looked straight at the boy.
“No. I never met anyone, or maybe, they don’t know Mom died,” David continued, not knowing what else to say. It was the truth. It had always been just the two of them.
“And why are you on the streets? Shouldn’t CPS have taken you in?”
“I lied to some people. I told them my uncle was coming soon. I guess they didn’t call anyone,” David answered. But suddenly, he was curious about something. “If you’re my father, why weren’t you in my life?”
“That’s a long story,” Charlie began and said that he had run away as soon as Maria told him she was pregnant. He didn’t want the responsibility. “But in the end, it was the worst thing I ever did. Karma got to me, and I got mixed up with some bad people. I should’ve stayed with your mother and been a father to you.”
They talked more in that dead-end alley and even had a few laughs despite their sad circumstances. Finally, David had an idea. “Why don’t you come live with me so that I won’t be taken away? But on the condition that you will get a job and help me out. I’m a kid. I can’t do anything without an adult without raising suspicion.”
“Are you sure? Do you have a house?”
“An apartment. But rent is due at the end of the month. I don’t have the money. I still have to pay for Mom’s funeral,” David continued.
Charlie thought about it for several minutes. He didn’t have a home and had no idea how to raise a kid. But it was a deal he couldn’t pass up. So he moved in with David, and now that he had an address, he could apply for jobs.
Together, they raised enough for a simple funeral for Maria, and they bonded when Charlie told him stories of their time together. David reciprocated and recounted all the things they did together. Eventually, Charlie found a job at Target and paid rent a few weeks later, as the landlord gave them an extension.
David was able to go back to school instead of begging for alms every day. In the end, they thought of each other as family even if they met under the oddest of circumstances.
What can we learn from this story?
Don’t run from your responsibilities. Not everyone is ready to have kids, but you can’t run away from your duties.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. Charlie moved in with David and paid for everything he could, so the kid would not have to be alone.
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