A rich man is about to devour his donut during lunch break when a squeaky voice behind him asks, “Can you give me your donut, sir?” The man turns around to see a little boy and is shocked that he’s his carbon copy.
Peter exited his office building during lunch break and walked straight to the cafe across the street. Once there, he ordered his favorite glazed donut and coffee and sat on a table outside the eatery, enjoying his own company.
That’s how Peter was. He loved admiring the wave of humanity passing the streets as he ate his lunch alone. His employees wondered why he did that. After all, it’s not every day that you see a rich businessman eating a $1 donut at a cheap cafe for lunch.
But Peter didn’t care. He was a down-to-earth man who didn’t bother much about the mouths talking behind his back.
That day, Peter was about to take a bite of the donut when a squeaky voice behind him asked, “Can you give me your donut, sir?” Peter was not prepared for what he saw next…
Upon hearing the voice, Peter immediately turned around to see a little kid, probably six, in tears behind him.
“I am very hungry. Can I please have that?” he asked, looking at the donut with hungry eyes, and Peter took a moment before he could reply. The boy was a vivid image of him.
“Uh, well, yeah, sure, buddy,” he eventually said as he handed the donut to the child, still taken aback by the boy’s resemblance to him.
“Thank—Thank you, sir,” the kid said and sat on a chair beside Peter. He began to eat the donut.
Peter couldn’t take his eyes off him. It was as if he was watching a younger version of him devouring a donut. What surprised him more was the birthmark on the boy’s arm, which was the same as his. That really worried Peter.
“Hey, hey, slow down. I can get you more if you want,” Peter said. “Where are your parents, buddy? And what’s your name?”
“I’m Joe,” the boy replied. “My daddy died, and I live with mommy at a place where a lot of poor people live.”
“A shelter?” asked Peter. “How did you get here alone? It’s not safe for kids to roam around like that.”
“I was very hungry, and mommy didn’t have money, so I thought I could ask someone for help. I know the way back,” he said. “Thank you for your help, sir. Can you buy me another donut for my mommy? She is hungry, too…”
“This could be the chance,” Peter thought. “Maybe meeting his mother can help me find answers. But I can’t digest how this kid…How does he look so similar to me?”
Peter was desperate to find the reason behind their uncanny resemblance, so he decided to buy the boy some food to take to his mother and accompany him. “I hope this helps, though…” he thought.
“Just wait here. I’ll be right back, Joe, ok?” he said, and the youngster nodded.
Peter bought some sandwiches and donuts for Joe and his mom then drove the boy to the shelter. Joe was sitting in the back seat of Peter’s car, and Peter couldn’t stop glancing at him through the rearview mirror the entire ride. Who was this little boy?
“Mommy! I’m back, and I got you food!” Joe cried as he ran out of the car, holding the food packets in his hand. The shelter was close to Peter’s office, just a 15-minute ride.
“Hey, careful, Joe!” Peter shouted, quickly getting out of the car and following the boy inside. But Peter wasn’t prepared for what he saw. It shook him, to say the least.
Joe’s mother was the reason Peter was never happy as a teenager. She was the reason his mother cried instead of sleeping most nights. She was the reason Peter’s father left them to fend for themselves several years ago. Peter’s father was in love with Joe’s mother and had left his family for her.
Peter’s mother worked three jobs and raised him alone. Peter never enjoyed his teenage days because he was forced to become the man of the house. He did odd jobs to help his mom while finishing his education.
Years later, he made a name for himself, and their condition improved. Peter had never expected to cross paths with his past in this manner.
“So Joe is your son. No wonder that birthmark…” he said, approaching Joe’s mother.
“Oh, it’s you!” she said, embarrassed and startled, as she recognized him. “Did you get all this for us?”
He nodded. “What are you doing here? How,” he hesitated. “How did you and Joe end up here?”
Suddenly, tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. “Joe, honey, can you please wait inside? Mom will be right back.”
“Ok, mommy! And thank you for helping us, sir,” Joe said before disappearing with the food packets.
“I’m so sorry for what I did, Peter,” the woman, Rachel, said. “Your father died years ago, soon after Joe was born. He was diagnosed with cancer. We spent almost everything on his treatment, but he never recovered. That explains why we’re here today.”
“Why didn’t you contact us?” he asked. “Honestly, I don’t care about you or my father, but I do care about Joe. For God’s sake, he’s a child! He doesn’t deserve to pay for your sins! Don’t forget that Joe is a part of my father! He is family.”
“Peter…” she whispered. “Thank you. Thank you for caring for Joe…”
“Take Joe and come with me if you want to thank me. You’re not staying here any longer!”
“But what about your mom? She—She will hate me! I ruined her marriage!”
“Well, yes, you did that, but she won’t hate you, Rachel,” Peter said. “That’s what sets my mom apart. She would embrace Joe like her own child. I know my mother. She’s got a big heart.”
Deep down, Peter hated Rachel. He despised her. But he chose to forgive her because Joe’s crying face reminded him of his younger self.
In Joe, Peter saw his helpless younger self who wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder during difficult times but had to pretend to be strong. Joe was his brother, and Peter couldn’t abandon him after learning he was struggling.
He brought them home, which hurt his mother, Mary, but after seeing little Joe, she quickly kept her tears at bay and forced a smile on her face.
“Hello,” Joe said to Mary. “Peter told me you were family. It’s so nice to meet you.”
“Hi, little boy,” Mary said and hugged him. “Would you like some cookies and milk? I enjoy baking cookies, but I no longer do that now that Peter is grown. He used to enjoy cookies as well. Do you want some?”
Joe nodded with a smile. “I love cookies. It’s funny how Peter and I look like each other, and we both love cookies!”
That remark brought tears to Mary’s eyes, but she laughed it off. “Oh, well, you’re no different than my son. Let’s eat cookies together, and Rachel, you can rest in the guest room. Please make yourself at home.”
It was NOT easy for Mary or Peter to forgive Rachel for what she’d done, but was she to be blamed for everything? No, she wasn’t. Because Peter’s dad was equally responsible. And more importantly, Joe was nowhere at fault for what happened.
So Mary and Peter decided to move on and embrace a fresh start rather than dwell on the past.