True Short Story: The boy at McDonald’s — Mark Roberts

One of the world’s largest carpets woven in the northeastern Iranian city of Neishabour. (PHOTO: Fars news agency/

I was sitting in the back corner of my local hangout, McDonald’s, enjoying a hefty quarter pounder when a young man walked up to me. I didn’t recognise him at first, but something seemed vaguely familiar about his features. He sported a long beard and was exceptionally well-groomed. From the smile on his face, he knew exactly who I was. He asked me if I remembered him and after some serious brain scratching, it dawned on me. He was one of the addicts I had helped several years before.

I remembered the last time I had seen him; he had come to me for help late one evening. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he wanted me to take them to a clinic so that she could have an abortion. They were both Muslim, although, after many debates and discussions under the trees at night, he was considering Christianity. 

They both knew my feelings about abortion, but I said that I would consider it on one condition. The condition was that they would need to sit and listen to me for 10 minutes. They agreed to 10 minutes. The 10 minutes evolved into two hours. The discussions did not involve preaching and judging, but loving them and begging them to trust me that God loved them and the little one that moved gently in her tummy.

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After that night, I never saw them again. Now, we stood staring at each other, just reminiscing. He asked me whether I remembered the conversation of that evening. I nodded my head in acknowledgement, remembering the evening as though it were yesterday. I had no idea of what the couple had decided.

Smiling, he turned toward the counter and called his wife. She didn’t hesitate to shout and give me a big hug. I turned around to see a young girl with a beautiful dress, olive skin and matching pigtails. She was breathtakingly beautiful! It was their daughter. She ran to her daddy who picked her up and handed her to me, instinctively her arms flew around my neck, as though she knew me and planted a kiss on my cheek.

“Mark, if it wasn’t for you, she wouldn’t be here,” he said with a smile on his face. I kissed her gently on her cheek as I felt a tear begin to form in my eye. “Thank you my friend” he whispered as we exchanged greetings and they made for the exit. The little girl was smiling and waving to me.

The truth is, I may never see her again and she may never know the role I played in fighting for her life. I may pass her on the street 20 years from now and we wouldn’t recognise each other. Yet we are inexplicably connected, like a tapestry of knots and threads. The things we say and do matter. They affect the world more than we can ever imagine. We are called to care and love and to reflect the love that has been bestowed upon us. Love touched the parents the day they decided not to proceed with the abortion.

The young man and I had spent many evenings discussing God in that rehab. The recurring theme was the depth of God’s love and the length to which God would go to save His own children. God chose to stay but His choice could have been different: He could have flushed the loo and walked away. No, He chose to stay. When this man walked away at McDonald’s his last words to me were: “I now understand what you meant about God’s love: He could have aborted me too, but chose to have me instead.”

The Church is where the pain should stop. Most people are afraid, as it may very well be the one place the pain will start. There are people in this world hurting more than we can imagine. They’re waiting for the arms of someone to engulf them. Those arms belong to us Christians who claim to represent Him. Trust me, if God felt differently He could rain fire from Heaven. He doesn’t need your help, but He does need you to explain His greatest deed — “The Great Tapestry”.

We don’t understand the big picture, how the small things we do, or the little things we say, influence the world. We see these small acts as inconsequential and unimportant, yet their effects cannot be analysed from a “snapshot” perspective. This life is more like a movie; like trying to understand a mystery, solving a riddle or even unravelling a great tapestry. It’s complicated and only when all the strands are woven together like a Persian carpet, will we understand what the picture says. And that will only happen from a perspective from eternity.

Persian carpets date back some two thousand five hundred years and the trade has developed into a huge industry, grossing some six hundred and thirty-five million dollars (R9.8 billion) in foreign sales annually. They are made from wool, silk and cotton and sometimes, even a combination of all three and are generally hand made. A top-quality carpet can take weavers anything from a few months to several years to complete — depending on how intricate the design may be. The largest carpet in the world is owned by the “Iran Carpet Company” and measures approximately five thousand six hundred square meters. It was made for a mosque in the United Emirates. It is worth almost six million dollars (R92.4 million) and boasts to have more than two billion knots. 

God and His plan are very similar to a Persian carpet and like the weavers, He had a plan and a design before the carpet was ever woven or manufactured. His plan contains hundreds of billions of strands and knots woven together. When you enter the mosque and view the carpet, it’s extraordinary and beautiful, but turn the carpet around and all you will see is senseless strands of threads and knots. There is no coherent message and no understandable picture because it’s a mess from that perspective. Turn the carpet the right way and suddenly it all makes sense. 

Here on earth, we look up and try to interpret the great carpet in God’s throne room, but all we see is knots, threads — a mess. We see the underside of the carpet. However, if we could stand in the throne room and stand on the carpet, feel it between our toes, we would have God’s perspective and it would all make sense. We would appreciate it for what it is: the biggest, most expensive and most beautiful carpet masterpiece in the world. When we view the back of the carpet from our world, the knots we see appear to be the terrible mistakes we’ve made and disasters we’ve experienced and the mess the world is in. Try to remove just one thread and the carpet unravels and becomes incomplete and damaged. Those knots are an integral part of the design because they are all interwoven and interlinked with other knots for a reason. To tell the Great Story of God. 

When your day comes and you are ushered into that room, you will notice that in the very centre of the carpet is His cross. Everything around it is connected and leads to the cross. The cross is what gives the carpet its special and unique beauty. I think when I meet that little girl in Heaven, we’ll both be standing on that carpet together and we will smile as we see our knots joined, ultimately linked by the thread of the cross. She will smile and kiss my face, and I will say: “Lord, I should have done more.” I think at that moment the little girl will throw her arms around Jesus and say: “He did great.” With broken, scarred hands from weaving the most unbelievable carpet of love, He will embrace her tenderly and then wink at me.


  1. So Amazing reading these stories and being reminded we do still have amazingly caring good ppl in this world. U r an unbelievable inspiration Mr Roberts. Not to mention talented! Thank u for being able to draw me so near to tears of sadness and convert those right into tears of joy and overflowing trust in God with each story I read that u bless me with! Blessings in absolute abundance!

  2. Thank you! Your insight, wisdom & empathy is insightful. Blessings,

  3. Wonderfully written!!! We all have moments of doubt and lost hope, and I thank you for the stories that remind us of the beautiful ending that awaits us, even though we might not see it yet.