“Nothing in the world is so strong as a kind heart, and somehow this kind little heart, though it was only the heart of a child, seemed to clear all the atmosphere of the big gloomy room and make it brighter.”
Walking alone into the presence of his grandfather, the formidable Earl of Dorincourt, Cecil Errol, age seven, has been catapulted from his happy American childhood to be Little Lord Fauntleroy, heir to a British earl he is about to meet for the first time. Into his new life the boy brings an angelic spirit, a supremely kind heart, a spiritual effulgence that touches and transforms everyone around him. Cecil’s widowed mother has for her son a selfless love that seeks only his highest good, that carefully guides his footsteps always to see the best in others — and to live in this world joyfully but uncorrupted by the sudden arrival of vast wealth, and by the power and temptation that follow close behind: “Only be good, dear, only be brave, only be kind and true always, and then you will never hurt anyone so long as you live, and you may help many, and the big world may be better because my child was born.”
Young Cecil’s grandfather, widely condemned as the “wicked Earl of Dorincourt,” has lived his seventy years concerned only with his own pleasure, arrogantly heedless of the needs and feelings of others. Living in a magnificent castle, surrounded by every luxury, the old man sits alone, crippled with gout, feared and detested by tenants, neighbors, and relatives, as well as by his own servants. His only enjoyment comes from flying into rages at defenseless underlings or unleashing vicious sarcasm at those who come seeking his aid.
Bitterly disappointed in his own sons, now all dead, the Earl has sent for the only possible living heir, young Cecil, child of an American mother and the Earl’s youngest son — their marriage having so offended the Earl’s pride of family and class that he had disowned the son and refused to acknowledge the American wife. Instead of the impossible American lout the Earl has feared to see, the boy who presents himself is, even to the old man’s jaundiced eye, innately noble, admirable beyond his fondest imaginings — handsome, strongly built, straightforward, fearless, courteous, and unshakably warm and friendly to all — and (to the Earl’s secret delight) completely unfazed by his scowling, intimidating presence. The divine drama is underway: It is the Earl’s aristocratic pride that becomes the doorway through which light begins to enter his darkened consciousness. Cecil’s character is perfectly designed to find welcome in the old man’s embittered soul, there to do God’s secret work of redeeming even one so lost in delusion.
Having been treated by mother and father always with love, consideration, tenderness, and respect, Cecil sees everyone as a treasured friend. Gazing directly into each one’s eyes, his heart goes out to that one with sincere kindness and well wishes. The Earl showers his grandson with wealth, but his motive is to bind the boy to himself, and to so overwhelm him with aristocratic privilege that he will forget his mother and his American roots. In all his grandfather does for him, Cecil sees only kindness and generosity, feels only gratitude and love, and responds unhesitatingly by sharing whatever the Earl gives him with the many he knows who are in need. Never does he think to buy for himself, nor to take credit for his gifts, which he sees as coming from the loving-kindness of his grandfather. Never does he doubt that his grandfather’s gifts come from goodness, that whenever he sees suffering or want he will always do the kind and generous thing. And steadily behind him stands his mother, careful never to undermine his faith in the grandfather, careful always to encourage him to see the good in everyone.
Like a spiritual yeast, the boy’s unwavering belief in the old man’s kindness works within the Earl’s pride-racked soul. Gazing with innocent trust into the old man’s eyes, Cecil names twenty-seven individuals he credits his grandfather with having helped and made happy: “I hope when I grow up I shall be just like you.” Hearing these words, spoken so innocently, gratefully, and trustingly, the Earl, for the first time, sees the dry life he has lived, seeking his own pleasure, indifferent to others, loving no one and loved by no one, arousing not admiration and affection but only fear and envy. In the pure light of this little boy’s unaffected love and respect, the Earl’s whole life stands brilliantly, and painfully, illumined.
From this moment the old man’s inner awakening accelerates — from a first honest self-appraisal to a wish he had lived a better life, to fear that this little boy who actually loves and admires him should learn the depressing truth about him, to the pivotal moment when, unable to bear the bleak self-awareness he can no longer ignore, he humbles himself before the boy’s mother, whom he now sees as cut from the same cloth of goodness as the boy, and so takes first steps toward undoing past wrongs and reclaiming his own divine potential — what the boy has always seen, has never doubted, has unflaggingly loved and nourished and, in the end, awakened. No darkness can long remain in the presence of such light.
“When you can view all human beings,” Swami Kriyananda writes, “as members of your own extended family — your brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, and children — then you will find wherever you go that love awaits you, welcomes you! It is God who gazes back at you, when you behold Him in all!”
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing