Herman Wijns:  Life:  Toddler

A joyful toddler

The Wijns family maintains an informal relation with its staff. After breakfast, Herman's first task is to give them all a kiss. The staff members are all very fond of the child. Little Herman may often accompany them when home deliveries are made. He rides along in the basket where the meat is stowed. When one of the maids gets a day off to visit the fair, she prefers to stay home to keep Herman company.

Herman's father is a firm believer in the value of prayer. He learns little Herman to respectfully pray before and after each meal. During prayer, the little child has to be silent; the prayer must be carried out with modesty and respect. As a result, Herman realizes the great significance of prayer early on.

When his father goes to his room to quietly pray the rosary in front of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, Herman sneaks after him and gently opens the door of the room. The child mimics his father with a set of prayer beads in his hands, and moves his lips. After a while, he falls into a slumber.

Herman's -literally- big playmate is "Mus", the very tall dog with which Herman's parents have familiarized him.

Anecdote: A generous toddler

One day, little Herman asks his father: "Give sugar to Mus?" "Yes, but be careful, boy".

After a while, the toddler returns to the shop and triumphantly shouts out: "It's all gone!" His father wants to find out what he means by that.

It turns out that the little child has fed all the lumps to the dog.

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A sweet toddler

On a Sunday noon, little Herman walks alongside his father on the Antwerp shoe market. He's 3 years old by then. They enter the chapel of Our Lady of Refuge. The toddler suddenly lets go of his father's hand and he walks up to the front row, where he halts. What is it that attracts his attention? The altar, the statue of the Virgin Mary? For minutes, he remains motionless. Could it be that Our Lady has already taken him under her special protection? A bishop who's praying nearby, notices the child. He approaches him, blesses him, and gives him a holy card. For the remainder of the day, the boy can't stop talking about this encounter.

As a toddler, Herman can sit for hours on a little stool near the shop's door. He kindly greets everyone who enters. He knows every customer and knows whether or not they have a cat or a dog. As soon as he notices these people, he rushes behind the counter to show up with a little packet of meat for their cat of dog. People appreciate this little gift so much, they invite him to come see their pet. Some neighbors also invite him for a walk, as he's such a cute and lively chatterer. Remarkably, he never asks anything himself, and he even refuses the lemonade or candy people want to buy for him. His parents didn't even impose this upon him.

Herman has a growing feeling of humanity, a charity for the poor which belies his age. More than other children, his innocent sincerity often humbles adults who meet him. He's only five years old when the incident with the gipsy woman takes place.

Every morning, Josef Wijns attends Mass. If Herman's awake, he wants to come along. He has a very inquiring mind, and his father answers all of his questions. He carefully follows Mass in his little picture book, a gift from his father. His head doesn't yet rise above the chair's armrest, but his little eyes glitter, and he notices every move the celebrant or choir boy makes.

Herman is a joyful child, who likes to laugh. He has a very devout nature, but at the same time, he's very playful. His uncle Mon and aunt Marie have a joinery, where he can trot through the wood shavings. Now and then, he lets himself fall down in the shavings as if it was a featherbed, and his laughter resounds through the workshop. He loves to visit his uncle, because he always has time for him, and he knows many beautiful fairies.

Anecdote: Not dirty

A gipsy woman regularly passes by, walking behind a wheeled barrel-organ pulled by dogs. Soon, Herman makes friends with the dogs. As soon as they see the child, they start wagging their tails.

The woman has to struggle to keep the dogs under control, and they cross the street all by themselves while barking loudly. They stop in front of the butchery's door, panting. The gipsy makes use of the occasion and plays a tune. In the meanwhile, the dogs receive their extra food from Herman. The gipsy thanks them and Herman is allowed to play a tune on the organ. A lot of people gather to watch this little spectacle.

The gipsy asks Herman's mother whether she can give the child a kiss. "Yes, of course!" At that moment, a "lady" enters the store and observes the scene. A little later, she asks Herman: "Aren't you afraid of the beasts?" Herman replies: "Surely not madam, those dogs don't bite." "Yes, but I mean the little beasts, that lady is dirty, don't you see?" Amazed, he replies:"Dirty, madam? Poor, yes, not dirty!"

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