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Story by Carol Hunt
Early in September, a worried mother was in our clothes rack. She was a mother of two sons, Jeremy (8) and Thomas (2 ½). She asked for used shoes for her eight year old son. Any kind would do because school would begin in two days, and the money she had saved for new shoes had to be spent on medicine for her youngest child who had an ear infection. I glanced down at Jeremy’s feet. The sole of one shoe had a gaping hole—the result of summer days of running and jumping. She had but three choices in his size. A sadness came over me, but clearly to this mother the used, soiled shoes were a gift. As they tried on the shoes that were available, I searched for new socks. Their newness contrasted with the used shoes. Suddenly, the spontaneous delight of the child brought joy. There was a preciousness in both the old and new.
Two days later, a truck arrived loaded with a huge box. The driver of the truck told me the box had fifty pair of new shoes and he asked if he could please have a tax receipt. Fifty new pair of shoes for fifty children. I was overwhelmed! When we removed the brown, corrugated paper from the sides of the box, I felt extreme disappointment, and I am sure my face showed it. There were indeed new shoes, but none of them matched and some of them had cuts on the soles. As the staff stood looking into the box, we began to laugh. The absurdity of fifty pair of non-matching shoes. It was a challenge to turn this into a positive experience, but we did. We spent hours matching near-alike shoes, a process which resulted in nine pair.
One week later, there was a knock at the children’s center. When I opened the door, there stood Jeremy holding a box. “I brought you a present,” he said excitedly, “and I want to show you my new shoes.” “Oh Jeremy,” I exclaimed. “They are wonderful.” “This is for you,” he said as he shoved the box into my hands. “We saved enough money to buy two pairs of shoes, one for me and one for another boy. Thank you for helping us. Mom says these will help you!” I thought of the fifty miss-matched shoes. Jeremy’s mother had made a sacrifice. Her tax receipt would be the example that her son learned by buying a second pair of shoes to share with others.
I reached down to embrace Jeremy. His mother waved from the car. No words were necessary. On the mother’s face was a beautiful expression of joy. She knew the joy of her gift. She had known the struggle of providing shoes for her own children. She had fully experienced, expressed, and understood compassion. Christ comes to dwell in our everydayness.