In a miserable apartment at midnight, a lonely mother sat at the bedside of her dying infant. But she was not the only one who kept watch in that large house in the silent hour of the night. Many a poor, trembling, and hungry woman waited to hear the shaky footsteps of her drunken husband on the stairs. Many a deeply-saddened mother’s heart wept for her lost son, her lost daughter! But under that roof were also God-forsaken people, enslaved by sin, spending the night drinking, gambling, and fighting.
In that lonely dwelling, no light and no warming fire burned in the stove, because wood and coals were missing. The moon shone in softly and revealed the pale child’s face to the distressed woman. Now the poor little one whimpered and stretched out her scrawny little hand for food. The milk was ice cold! The mother warmed the bottle against her chest and with her breath before she wet the child’s dry lips with it. The little one sank into a restless sleep again, and the poor mother, who could not speak to anyone in the big, strange city, poured out her heart aloud to God:
“O Lord, God of my fathers, I was a wicked, ungrateful child when I willfully left home and the devout parents you gave me, and in spite of all warnings trusted the false love of an ungodly man. O dear God, have mercy and lead me back to my parents! Father, to you I give my heart’s child; take her to Yourself! Do not let her grow up to curse You! O, take her to You, that she may be safe! I will bear the punishment, for I have sinned. Chasten me, but let not my child suffer for my sin. I thank You that You have sought me and found me. I thank You that You have forgiven me all things. O, take my child to You and save my poor husband. I will give You eternal thanks! Amen.”
God heard the prayer for the innocent child. When the morning dawned, she had died. The young mother sat next to her in deep sorrow, and now came the worry of how to bury her. She knew no one, and she did not know where her husband was. To whom should she turn? – “Oh God, send me help!” she sighed.
And where was the child’s father, that wretch who had plunged the daughter of devout parents into unspeakable misery? Ah, he had at last fallen to the arm of justice which he had so brazenly defied. As a criminal, he sat in prison. The woman did not know this, but the others in the house did. And although they were not a hair better than the unfortunate man, none of them came near to comfort the lonely soul, but they all studiously avoided her. Only a boy who was playing on the stairs once opened the apartment door and recoiled in fright when he saw the little corpse.
Just then, a woman came in the front door, a poor washerwoman from the neighborhood who had to get something in the house. The boy yelled out to her, “There’s a dead child in there!”
“A dead child?!” The washerwoman’s eyes grew moist. Oh, she knew how much meaning those three words contained. After all, she herself had had to close her little darling’s eyes. Without hesitation, she entered the cold apartment where a pale skeleton lay on a dismal bed, and next to it, the mother knelt cold and motionless.
Then a warm hand laid on her head, and a voice interrupted by sobs said aloud: “Poor soul, I am so sorry for you! I, too, have seen my child die. And my heart would have been broken if Jesus Christ had not stood by me.”
Then the weary woman straightened up, looked into the kind face beside her, and burst into a flood of healing tears, crying, “You know Jesus Christ? O, tell me of Him before my heart breaks!” – The mourner had found a friend. God had sent her help!
When the washerwoman had learned the whole sad story and had brought the comfort of the Gospel in simple, heartfelt words to the heart of the lonely one, she went home again, prepared a warm, hearty meal, and brought it to the half-starved woman. She also carried a basket of wood and coals and heated the apartment. Then she went to the police herself, reported the death, arranged everything necessary for the funeral, washed the little corpse with tender care, and wrapped it in a beautiful, little white shirt that she had kept as a memento of her darling. After paying the house rent for the poor neighbor, packing up her few belongings and taking them over to her own simple but clean apartment, she wrapped the deceased child in a shawl and, accompanied by her mother, carried her there also. She had already ordered that the funeral should be held at her house.
The poor washerwoman, who had to earn her daily bread with laborious, hard work, was the saving angel in God’s hand for this lost human. She was able to lead this soul not only out of hunger, misery, and loneliness, but out of deepest heart trouble into the friendly sunlight of eternal love, until the weary soul gained courage and faith and her nearly-broken heart strengthened and revived. Then the good washerwoman did not rest until the parents of the lost woman forgave her everything and lovingly took her back into their home and hearts.
She had done what she could. And even if no one here below praises her deeds, one day Jesus will say to her, “You did it to Me!” (Matthew 25:40)