When six-year-old Oscar helped a scary-looking stranger out of kindness, he did not anticipate that it would end up solving all his family’s problems.
Oscar Barrett would have given anything to become a superhero. At home, he would sit and read comics. Outside, by the pond, he would daydream about his superpowers and how he would change the world with them.
Some would say the six-year-old had the perfect backstory for being a superhero. He came from a home where love exceeded means.
His mother, Gina, was a woman who had to work two jobs every day: on weekdays, she was a parking lot attendant at the Esquire Mall, and on weeknights, she worked as a bartender at a local microbrewery.
Gina was a kind woman who worked two jobs to raise her kids. | Source: Pexels
Even through the dullness of her skin and tiredness of her face, one could tell that Gina was a beautiful, kind, and yet, lonely woman. Though she had left her life of comfort and wealth almost two decades ago, there were little quirks of sophistication that stuck with her.
If she hadn’t chosen the love of her life over her family, she would still be living that life. But she was young and foolish. And thank goodness for that!
When Gina chose a life with Mark, she knew life wouldn’t be easy. But she also knew that her heart wouldn’t find that kind of love, admiration, and warmth in anyone else.
So she married Mark, who worked as a warehouse operator at an industrial shipping company.
A few years into their small but grand life together, Gina and Mark were blessed with their first son, Miles. He instantly became the center of their universe, and Mark decided to do everything he could to be a more providing father to him.
Mark had made up his mind to become a better provider to his family. | Source: Pexels
He landed a better-paying desk job at the company, and Gina was happy to start teaching music and math in their home.
Parenthood was exhausting, with Gina and Mark barely finding the time to take trips or host friends like they used to. But they found new ways to stay young and in love.
One of them was a Saturday evening picnic by the pond, where Gina, Mark, and baby Miles would dream on a mat, singing, talking, and laughing until the stars began to come up.
And then, seven years later, Oscar came into this world. Gina and Mark’s lives got busier, Miles had started singing and playing the ukulele just like his mother, and the picnic mat under the stars was now full.
Until it wasn’t. Oscar did not have any memory of that dark day in their lives, and he didn’t dare ask his mother about it. He had seen her cry into the pillow on too many nights to bring up that pain again.
Mark’s untimely death changed everything. | Source: Pexels
It had been years since that fateful day, but there was a heaviness in that little house that still lingered. Gina lost herself at work and taking care of the kids. After Mark, she never dated again. Every possibility of a new companionship seemed superficial and meaningless.
Miles was of great help to Gina. He would help with Oscar and would deliver newspapers in the neighborhood before school every morning.
Just as the mother and boys were beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives, another tragedy struck. One morning, Miles collapsed and fell unconscious on his morning newspaper run. It was then discovered that Miles had developed a rare heart condition.
With that diagnosis, Miles had to quit school, bid farewell to cycling and running around with his friends, and spend his days switching between the wheelchair and the bed.
Miles was diagnosed with a heart condition that changed his life. | Source: Getty Images
Gina was devastated. Treating Miles’ condition would require money that was beyond her imagination. But there is something about the adrenaline of a mother’s heart that makes her invincibly fierce when her child’s life is in question. She realized teaching wasn’t bringing nearly enough money for Miles’ treatment.
She stepped out of the house, went for interview after interview, and took the first two jobs that paid minimum wage.
Oscar was too young to take up Miles’ newspaper delivery gig. He was too young to fix the heating or make a meal. He was too young to do anything other than being a six-year-old child.
And the little boy was tired of not being able to help.
‘Why do superheroes only become superheroes when they are older? I bet I would be a great superhero. There is so much I would do if I could fly, or heal, or turn back time,’ he thought to himself.
Oscar would often spend his time daydreaming of being a superhero. | Source: Getty Images
Oscar would often visualize and lose track of time. He had plenty of friends who would join him by the pond, making up games, hurling pebbles into the water, and talking about school and movies and dads.
The young boys would play there until sundown; or until they saw any sign of the stranger they called ‘Mr. Bogeyman.’
The old man would pass them by every day, giving them the angry side-eyes as he pedaled away at a dramatically slow pace. His bicycle was old and rusted, with a cart attached to the back. The cart was always full of suspicious items – like ropes, garbage, heavy axes, tape, and big planks of wood.
The old man’s face was always half-hidden by his cap, but just the angry eyes were enough to scare the little boys away. They thought he was a murderer or criminal of some kind.
They also once found a children’s rocking horse in the back. That’s when they started believing that he was a kidnapper, too.
The children thought the old Mr. Bogeyman to be a terrible criminal. | Source: Getty Images
Oscar was scared of Mr. Bogeyman, too. But one day, he had to buckle up and face his fear.
As usual, the boys were chattering away by the pond when they heard a massive thud behind one of the rocks, followed by a loud roar. When the boys found out that it was Mr. Bogeyman, they ran away screaming.
“It’s Mr. Bogeyman! Run! Run!”
Oscar, who was daydreaming as usual, was shaken by the noise. When the boys began to scatter, he had a strange impulse. He noticed that the repeated roaring sounded like the man was crying out in pain.
Oscar had a choice to make. He could either run away from the man he had heard so much evil about, or he could approach the stranger and perhaps even offer help.
The old man’s cries got quieter. Oscar followed his heart and walked up to him. He noticed that the man had fallen, the bicycle lay in the mud, and several bags of scrap had spilled out of the cart onto the narrow lane.
Oscar noticed that several garbage bags had fallen off the bicycle cart. | Source: Getty Images
The scary-looking man somehow managed to lift his bicycle upright. He was clasping his knee and groaning in pain, trying to figure out how to pick up the mess.
He noticed Oscar from the corner of his eye, but he was too proud to ask for help from anyone, let alone a six-year-old boy.
“What are you looking at? Don’t you have to run away to your friends?” The man asked with a tired but stern voice.
Oscar was startled to hear the man speak. He knew that, behind the facade of anger and toughness, Mr. Bogeyman was helpless.
“That’s alright. Let me help you,” Oscar said.
He went closer and started picking up one muddy bag after the other and putting it into the cart. The two cleaned up the mess within a few minutes and barely spoke a word all that while.
After cleaning up, the old man nodded, mumbled something that sounded like a ‘thank you,’ and tried to walk his bicycle. But a couple of steps later, he stopped again, crying and clutching his knee in pain again.
The old man could not walk much further owing to his knee pain. | Source: Getty Images
“Wait, I can help. Let me walk your bicycle, Mr. Bogeym—” Oscar covered his mouth as he realized what he had just called the old man.
“Mr. Bogeyman?” The man looked Oscar in the eye and then burst out laughing.
For someone of his build and reputation, Mr. Bogeyman had a surprisingly gentle laugh. Oscar stood there, afraid of what twists to expect next.
“Of all the names I’ve been called…that has to be the funniest!” The man continued chuckling loudly for a while.
Finally, he asked Oscar, “Are you sure, little boy? It’s going to be a 15-minute walk from here. I have most definitely sprained my knee, and it would be a great help if you could drag this rusty old bicycle to the dumpster. I’ll pay you when we get there.”
Oscar didn’t think the man in an old hat and baggy clothes could afford to pay him.
“That’s alright, sir. You don’t have to pay me.”
As they walked, all Oscar could think about was getting home and telling Miles about this weird encounter with Mr. Bogeyman. ‘Mark is going to laugh so hard!’
Oscar was excited about going home and telling his brother about his day with the old man. | Source: Getty Images
After they reached the dumpster, Oscar helped in tossing the bags of waste into the containers.
“And where shall I park this bicycle for you, sir?” Oscar asked.
The old man was surprised by the charm and kindness of the little boy.
“Right around here, son. Walk with me.”
The old man asked him to stop in front of a cozy little house next to a huge gated villa with a private pool.
“Well, this is me, son. I can’t thank you enough.” Oscar nodded politely, but he was distracted looking at the extraordinarily lavish villa. The fence was high and fancy, but Oscar could still see a vast stretch of open lawns and what looked like three or four luxury cars parked in the driveway.
“What’s your name, young man?”
“Oscar, sir,” he answered as he was about to leave.
“Why don’t you come in and have a cup of hot cocoa. You must be tired from the walk.” Oscar stood there, awkwardly trying to come up with a reason to decline the offer.
“I insist,” the old man said, smiling.
The old man invited Oscar in for a cup of hot cocoa. | Source: Getty Images
The inside of the cozy home was surprisingly large and beautiful. The space was tastefully decorated, and the kitchen was all-marble and sparkling clean. ‘Mom will love this place,’ Oscar thought.
“Your house is quite beautiful, sir,” he told the old man.
“Ah, you like it? Well, one of the rooms is being renovated. That’s the reason I keep going to the market to get supplies. Would you like to see the room?”
Oscar was curious. The dusty room that was being renovated was almost done, with only a wall left to paint. There were scraps of wood and tools lying all over the floor. Dreamcatchers, a bouncy-looking bed, and a ukulele hung on the wall. Like any ukulele, this one instantly reminded Oscar of his father.
In another corner of the room, Oscar recognized the rocking horse he and his friends had seen in the man’s cart the other day.
Oscar was surprised to find the same rocking horse that he and his friends had seen. | Source: Getty Images
“Who is that for?” he gathered his courage and asked.
“That is for my little granddaughter, Cora.”
The man’s face lit up as he said the name.
“She’s three, and from what I hear, she loves ponies, unicorns, and whatnot. I got this one made especially for her.”
Oscar felt a rush of shame as he remembered how he and his friends had pegged him for a dangerous man without knowing him. He observed the old man keenly and noticed that he seemed lonely. He decided to make him feel better by talking with him some more.
“That’s lovely, sir. I’m sure she’s going to love it. And, of course, she is going to love the whole room. When is she visiting?”
Suddenly, the old man’s smile was replaced with a deep sadness. “I don’t know, son. I haven’t spoken to her father in the last seven years.”
The old man opened up about his estranged family. | Source: Getty Images
Oscar felt terrible for his old friend, sensing the pain in his heart. “Why haven’t you spoken to him? Did you have a big fight?”
The old man tried to smile at the boy’s genuine kindness. “Yes, son. It was a pretty big fight. He wanted to marry someone that I didn’t like at the time. And I asked him to leave and never come back.”
Oscar saw the man trying to hide his tears. He held his trembling hands and said, “Your son sounds like my mom. She left her home to marry my dad, you know.”
Wiping his tears, the old man said, “Is that so? And did things smooth over between her and your grandfather?”
This time, it was Oscar whose face shrunk into a gloom. “No, sir. They didn’t get a chance. Grandpa died before they could make up. Mom misses him so much!”
Oscar remembered how he had seen his mother sneak away behind the kitchen and cry.
Oscar thought of how often his mother had cried and probably missed her father. | Source: Getty Images
Thinking of that made Oscar break into tears.
“You should call your son, sir. I bet he loves you. I bet he misses you.”
Saying this, Oscar hugged the old man and cried his heart out to the stranger. The man saw this as a sign to finally get in touch with his daughter. At the same time, he sensed that the boy couldn’t stop crying.
“What is it, Oscar? Why are you crying?” Oscar tried to calm himself down. “Go on, little boy. You can tell me anything.”
Oscar went on to share the story of his life, the struggles of his loving mother, the few but striking memories of his father, and the severe sudden sickness of his brother and closest friend, Miles. And most of all, Oscar shared his frustration about being unable to help in any way.
Oscar’s story moved the old man. He held him and consoled him, saying, “You are already a superhero, son. And your kindness is your superpower. You’ll see.”
The old man consoled little Oscar and gave him confidence.| Source: Getty Images
The next day, Oscar woke up to his mother calling his name frantically.
“Did you meet a man named Mr. Joseph Neeson yesterday?” she asked in a nervous tone.
Oscar realized that he hadn’t asked the old man his name. “I did meet an old man yesterday by the pond.”
Gina was shocked. “Did you tell him to…call his son?”
Oscar was confused by how his mother knew all this. ‘Miles must have told her,’ he thought.
“Yes, Ma. I did. It sounded like he was really sad, and—”
Gina interrupted Oscar, and with tears running down her eyes, she handed him a note.
Oscar had a surprise note waiting to be opened. | Source: Getty Images
Oscar opened the note. It was written on a custom letterhead marked with the name Joseph Neeson. It read:
Nothing can shake my belief that angels carried you into my life yesterday to reunite me with my family. I called my boy. It turns out you were right. He did miss me very much. He and Cora are coming to see me soon.
Also, remember I told you that kindness was your superpower? Well, you will see I was right. Because of your kindness to me, an old scary stranger, your greatest troubles are now over.
Look behind this note.
All my love,
Mr. Joseph Neeson
P.S. How would you and Miles like to come and stay a few days at my villa? I noticed you really liked it.
Oscar was shocked to discover that the villa belonged to the man in those baggy clothes.
The villa that had grabbed Oscar’s attention belonged to Mr. Neeson. | Source: Getty Images
He turned the note over and found something attached to it. “Is this…what I think it is, Ma?” he couldn’t believe what he saw.
It was a check for the amount of one million dollars, signed by his old friend. Oscar hugged his mother with all his strength.
“Is it really over, Ma? Will this be enough to heal Miles, Ma?”
“Yes, my darling!” Gina cried. She looked at the skies and whispered, “Mark, look what our little boy has done!”
What can we learn from this story?
Kindness that is given always comes around. Oscar’s intentions of helping the old man were pure and sincere. He even recognized that the man was lonely, and chose to make him feel better. And his kindness did not go unnoticed.
Never judge a book by its cover. The children judged Mr. Neeson as an evil person. Even Oscar assumed, looking at Mr. Neeson’s clothes, that he was poor. However, in reality, Mr. Neeson was a kind, generous person who needed a friend.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.