We first saw her at Burger King. She was sitting alone at a table in the family section, with no family in sight. We sat down at the table right next to her. We smiled at each other and she chomped a tiny mouthful of her giant Whopper sandwich which was almost too big for her to hold, much less bite. We watched her as she nonchalantly sat there, flirting with us with her twinkling chocolate brown eyes. But no family member ever came to be with her or to fetch her. And she didn't appear scared or concerned at all. She actually seemed quite confident and at ease. When the service manager from behind the counter brought our order to the table, he walked by the little girl and said something kind to her in Arabic which made her smile yet again. As he put our food down on the table, he told us that she was his most loyal and regular customer. She always comes to the restaurant. She comes to eat there every single day, he told us. Another random customer will usually buy her a sandwich, and then the manager himself throws in the fries and a drink for her.
My son Adam and I looked at each other. Clearly Sahba had touched our hearts. At the same time we both blurted out, “I wish we could take her home with us!” But she is not a stray cat or an abandoned puppy. She is not an orphan. She is a little six year old girl who helps to support her displaced family. We couldn’t stop talking or thinking about her as we finished our meal. Several minutes later the restaurant door opened, and there she was again. She approached our table and boldly used one of the oldest pick-up lines in the book on my infatuated husband. In Arabic she asked, “Would you like to buy me a drink?” Hubby smiled at her and I noticed that his eyes even teared up a little bit. He got up and gently put his hand on the back of her shoulder to guide her as they walked up to the counter together where he bought her a drink. It was undeniable that she was a favorite of the grinning Burger King employees, who all seemed to stop what they were doing to look over fondly at the sight of precious little Sahba, beaming as though they were all her doting uncles. Hubby asked the little child if she wanted some dessert too, but she politely declined. His reward was her pretty little gapped tooth smile.
And then she was gone again. We got into our car and as we were driving away, we saw her on the sidewalk at the edge of the busy plaza holding her cartons of gum, looking for a sale. I wondered how she managed to keep smiling and spreading her sunshine every day like she did, and I knew then that I wouldn't ever be able to forget about this charming little girl. I realized that she still had three more hours left to work, when most kids her age were already tucked into bed for the night. And to think, she’s just six years old… and still she smiles.