When a farmer saw his neighbor’s kid crying about his mom missing his birthday, he decided to use the last of his money to throw a birthday party for the boy. A few days later, a bus full of soldiers surprised him with something he never imagined.
“Hey, kid. Why are you crying?” Mr. Cooper asked as he approached his neighbor’s porch. He had been outside, watering a few of his plants, when he saw the child, Max, crying on the steps.
The boy sniffled sadly and wiped his tears with the back of his arms, and looked up at the older man. “My mom won’t be here for my birthday tomorrow, and my dad is too busy,” the kid answered, his bottom lip trembling gloomily.
Mr. Cooper nodded and shifted his cane on the ground. He didn’t have any family left, so he knew what it was like to spend birthdays alone. A little child with two parents shouldn’t be crying on the porch, although he understood why his mom was not there.
“What’s going on?” the old farmer asked them, and his eyes widened when he saw something in their hands.
Max’s mom was serving in the military and was currently stationed on the other side of the country. No one knew when she was coming back. There was no excuse for Max’s father, though, who apparently worked from home and barely paid attention to his own son.
Mr. Cooper wondered what he could do for poor Max. The 87-year-old had no money, as he couldn’t maintain his farm anymore or afford to hire people to work on it. It had been neglected for two years. He didn’t have anything to offer, but he had to suggest something.
“Ok, kid. Why don’t you come to my house tomorrow and we’ll celebrate your birthday together,” Mr. Cooper said, shrugging his shoulders, and the look of wonder and gratitude in Max’s eyes broke his heart.
“Really? Thank you!” the kid said. He stood up from the porch steps and cleaned up the rest of the tears on his face. “What are we doing?”
“First, how old will you be tomorrow?” Mr. Cooper asked, and Max pulled up his hand, showing all his fingers.
“I will be five!” he cheered and started jumping in place. “What are we doing?”
“You’ll see,” Mr. Cooper responded mysteriously and started walking away. “Come bright and early tomorrow!”
The next day, Max knocked on Mr. Cooper’s door at 7 a.m., and the old farmer opened it, holding balloons in his one free hand. “Happy birthday, Max!” he said, more enthusiastically than he usually was.
The sweet boy jumped in place and started clapping as Mr. Cooper welcomed him inside. Max saw a cake on the kitchen table with five candles already lit and rushed to it.
Mr. Cooper followed slowly with his cane and started singing “Happy Birthday” to the child. “Make a wish, kid,” he urged.
Max placed his hands together in prayer and closed his eyes. After a few seconds, he blew the candles and clapped.
“I’m sorry I don’t have any more surprises, kid,” Mr. Cooper apologized as he got some plates for the cake.
Max shook his head. “This is great already!” And the old farmer smiled.
Mr. Cooper had used the last of his money for the month to purchase the cake and the balloons. He couldn’t afford anything else for the child, but he didn’t want the day to go by without some kind of celebration, so he planned some activities.
They played Snakes and Ladders and Parcheesi, and Mr. Cooper started teaching him how to play Chess. The kid spent the entire day with the old farmer and even talked about how Mr. Cooper couldn’t work on his farm anymore.
“I can help!” Max offered, and the older man thanked him, but he needed adults to get his property back into full force. He tried to make Max understand that.
The kid left when the sun went down and promised to visit him soon so they could find a solution to his farm problem, which only made Mr. Cooper laugh.
Max didn’t visit for several days, but while staring through his window, Mr. Cooper saw his military mother, Fiona, arrive at some point, and he smiled as she hugged the kid tightly.
A few days later, Mr. Cooper was busy reading a book when the loud beep of a car horn startled him. It was odd because their street was pretty quiet, and no one made any noise. He took his cane and walked to the window, only to spot an army bus outside and tens of soldiers getting off.
“Max’s mom must be having a gathering with her friends,” he muttered. But then he saw Fiona look up and spot him. She waved with a big smile and gestured for him to come down.
Confused, Mr. Cooper wobbled as rapidly as he could down the stairs. Upon opening his door, the people outside yelled, “Surprise!” He saw Max among them, jumping.
“What’s going on?” the old farmer asked, and his eyes widened when he saw the tools in their hands.
“Mr. Cooper, Max told me what you did for him on his birthday,” said Fiona. “First, thank you for that. Second, I have to repay you for that gesture.” Fiona looked back at her army buddies. “Let’s get working, everyone!”
The soldiers rounded the farmhouse and went directly to Mr. Cooper’s land. Some of them went into his barn for the heavier tools and machinery.
Mr. Cooper was frozen in his spot but didn’t stop them. He marveled at how they worked so quickly. Max was running around trying to be helpful too.
Sometime later, Fiona approached Mr. Cooper, asking if this was alright. She also explained that many of her friends came from farm towns like this one, and they knew how to handle all of the equipment already.
“That’s how we bonded during our service,” she revealed. “Some are even from Missouri too, so that’s nice.”
The old farmer smiled, and his chest swelled, but he would never let the younger soldier see him getting emotional. “Thank you,” he breathed quietly. There were no words to describe what this moment meant to him.
“I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but my friends told me they had connections, and I think one could find you a buyer for the farm or an investor. Someone to keep it going in some way,” Fiona added, and although it would be hard, Mr. Cooper knew it was the best idea.
He thanked the woman again, and Fiona shook her head. “Don’t thank me. You were there for my kid when I couldn’t, and when my husband… wasn’t,” she said, pausing for a moment, and the old farmer could see the barely hidden anger in her eyes. “Anyway, I have you to thank.”
“Don’t mention it. But,” Mr. Cooper started carefully. “You shouldn’t be with that man.”
“Oh, I called my lawyer this morning, and my plan is to move with Max to Texas,” she added with a cheeky grin.
“Good,” the old farmer answered and didn’t say more as they watched everyone working so hard to restore his land.
A few months later, someone bought Mr. Cooper’s farm, and he moved into an assisted facility. Max tried to visit him often, but he soon moved to Texas. The older man wished them the best and wrote a weekly letter for the rest of his life.
What can we learn from this story?
If you have the power to do something kind for someone else, don’t hesitate. Mr. Cooper didn’t have much, but he made a little boy’s birthday really special and received the same kindness in return.
Sometimes, separation is the best option for everyone. Fiona knew she had to divorce her husband after discovering that he didn’t celebrate their son’s birthday. It was the right thing to do for everyone involved.