It was a busy Monday evening when Luisa walked into the coffee shop, ordered a regular coffee and settled into the seat overlooking the busy city streets.
That day had been terrible for her. With long meetings and projects with tight deadlines, she hoped to find some time to relax before returning home, where she needed to review some documents before getting into bed.
“Thank you,” she said quietly to the waitress as she left her order on the table.
Luisa put her iPad away, took a sip of hot coffee and looked around. It was then she noticed that at the next table over, a baby was staring at her with big eyes and applesauce all over his mouth.
She assumed the man who was talking on the phone while her baby played with the food was a single father. Why else would he be in formal wear in a cafe at 7 p. m., feeding a child, with his office bag by his side?
“Gross!” muttered Luisa, before looking away.
She detested babies. She was uncomfortable with their constant crying and how needy they were for affection and attention. But it seemed that the child at the next table was delighted with her.
When Luisa turned around, the baby began to cry and her tears rolled down her cheeks like a waterfall.
“What a mess!” she thought angrily.
When Luisa turned to look at the table, she saw that the father was still on the phone, which irritated her. She’d had a long day at work and the last thing she needed to hear was a child crying.
“Excuse me!” she called to the man from her desk. “Ask your baby to shut up! He’s crying too much!” she demanded.
The man apologized before continuing with the call, while trying to comfort his baby at the same time. Nothing changed, then Luisa called the waitress.
“Please give them another table! Or just throw them out! Do something, get them out of my sight,” she demanded. But the waitress could do nothing.
“Ma’am,” the waitress said in an apologetic tone. “As you can see, all the tables are full, and the only ones available are on the terrace, but it’s too cold there for the baby. I’ll talk to the father anyway…” she offered.
The waitress approached the man’s table, said something to him, and Luisa noticed that the man ended the call.
“I’m sorry. I think he’s tired and sleepy. He’ll probably settle down in a moment. I apologize for the inconvenience,” Luisa heard the man say.
Luisa could not contain her anger. She approached the man’s table and told him he must leave. That’s when the crying child vomited on her attire, which infuriated her even more.
“I’m so sorry, I really am,” the man told Luisa. “Let me make it up to you, please.”
“This is ridiculous!” exclaimed Luisa. “I’m leaving this place,” she said as she walked out of the cafe, glaring angrily at the man and the waitress. She never visited the café again and hoped she would never meet the man and his son again.
A year went by and one day Luisa met a handsome man who worked on contract at the same company as her. He was charming, polite, confident and everything she had always wanted in a partner.
They soon fell in love and soon after she discovered she was pregnant. When it became visible, Luisa told her parents, but they were not very happy.
“We don’t want that man involved with you or our family,” her father said grumpily.
“Your father is right,” her mother said. “He doesn’t deserve you. He doesn’t have our class, and well, regarding the baby…we can help you with parenting.”
Luisa was surprised. She had expected her parents to be happy with the news of her wedding. The company was her father’s, so when they decided to go ahead with their plans, they threw them both out.
A few months later, Luisa moved into Teodoro’s studio because she could no longer afford the rent. He was working for a small private company at the time, and was more than happy to take care of her during the pregnancy.
When the baby was born, they were so happy and knew that all their sacrifices and efforts had been worth it. Teodoro got a second job and Luisa decided it was time to look for one, perhaps part-time.
One day, she was called out of the blue for an interview at a publishing house. She couldn’t get a nanny on such short notice, so she had to take her daughter Eva with her.
Luisa had loved writing since she was a child, so she was very excited about the interview. However, as she approached the room, she realized that she was the only one carrying a baby.
“I’m afraid you won’t be able to come in with her,” the lady outside the interview room told her when her name was called.
“I’m sorry,” Luisa said. “I can’t leave her here alone. Please understand.”
The woman sighed and allowed it. Luisa walked into the office, and when she saw the interviewer’s face, she froze. It had been a long time, but her photographic memory was infallible and she had no doubt: it was the man she had been rude to months before.
“Do I know you?” the man asked, as he motioned for Luisa to take a seat. “You look familiar.”
“Oh, well,” Luisa said shyly. “We met at the cafe, and your baby was crying…”.
“Ah!” he exclaimed with a smile. “I remember. Please have a seat. I hope you know that we don’t usually have babies in interviews.”
Before Luisa could say anything, Eva began to cry. At that moment she felt very embarrassed and upset.
“Oh, no, I’m so sorry. I couldn’t leave Eva at home, and I thought…”.
“May I?” he asked.
“What?” she said, confused.
“May I hold her for a moment? I think I’ll be able to calm her down.”
Luisa nodded, she had nothing to lose. He handed Eva to her and the little girl stopped crying as soon as he started playing with her.
“She seems to like you,” Luisa said. “That’s not like her!”.
“I love babies,” said the man. “I’m Jonathan, by the way. In addition to being the director of the company, I’m a single father.”
Luisa could not control her tears.
“I don’t know how else to express this, but I can’t leave Eva alone. I’m not in the best financial situation, and if I can’t bring her to work, I don’t think I’m the right candidate for this position. I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s all workable. I’d like to interview you. We really liked your profile. Please…”
Jonathan interviewed Luisa and hired her. He explained to her that the company had a small daycare for its employees, which would allow her to work and at the same time have her daughter close by, knowing she would be safe.
“I’m a parent, too, and I understand,” he said. “Not to mention, at the end of the day, we all have problems to deal with, Mrs. Vidal – you just have to be patient and tolerant of your fellow man!”.
Luisa was more than grateful to Jonathan. Not only did she get a job that day, but she understood that empathy is essential for healthy coexistence.
Jonathan was a single father handling most of the company’s responsibilities while raising a son. And all of that with an extraordinary human quality.