Austin Perine is a four-year old who once weekly turns into a superhero. His super power lies in his ability to feed the homeless and give hope to all. Donning a red cape and bright blue shirt (under close supervision by his father, TJ), Austin roams the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, handing out chicken sandwiches and cans of soda to the homeless.
His transformation from mild-mannered 4-year old to superhero began one day when he and his dad were watching a television show about pandas. One baby panda, who had been abandoned, was being cared for by an adoptive panda mother. TJ said, “That cub was homeless.” Austin asked, “What is homeless?” The dad replied, “It's when a cub doesn’t have a home and doesn't have a mom or dad around.” As soon as TJ said that he was able to anticipate what his compassionate-beyond-his-years son would ask. “Are people homeless?” asked Austin, predictably. His dad replied resignedly,” Yes,” with an inkling of what was to come. Austin soon concluded that they needed to show some love and do something to help the homeless people. How a four year old was able to transfer the panda information to people is beyond me but he did. He traded in his allowance for Burger King chicken sandwiches. He took cans of soda and became a one boy soup kitchen, handing out the sandwiches to homeless people in his area. Each time he hands out a sandwich, he says, “Remember to show love.”
The disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said nothing to the adults; instead, he called one of the children over and asked that the child stand in their midst, where the teacher would stand when giving a lesson. He said some things after that but the visual imagery is the most important thing for me. Children know the Kingdom. They know compassion. They know what it is to give and to serve. They know what it is to show love.
Austin Perine has taken the role of the teacher in the center of the circle. His acts of kindness teach the rest of us what is possible and, frankly, what we should be doing. We need not only to care for homeless people, but to show love.
- Fr. Dave
For more information about Austin, go to his Facebook site, facebook.com/presidentperine