I’m not OCD. But some things put me awfully close to the edge. Very. Very close. Bransom’s shoes.
Bransom – and no that is not his real name – is a just-turned 5-year-old in our Pre-K class. Of the nine in our class, Bransom stays in the lines the best with his colors; is a master at putting together puzzles, even the hardest ones; and can’t sit still, “crisscross applesauce” during circle time to save his little soul.
It’s OK. He’s 5. He’s a growing boy.
I could tell you lovable and laughable things about Bransom for the rest of the day. For contrast I can tell you a couple of sad things, too. Like how morning after morning he gets off the school bus without his backpack, wearing clothes that it appears were in some pile of laundry and drug out about four minutes before Bransom was due to be on the bus. On occasion, Bransom’s arrived at school in the exact same clothes he was wearing the day before. His mom works nights, and sometimes doesn’t get home in time, so the oldest brother, a fifth-grader, gets the three younger boys ready.
We do what we can. It’s safe to say Bransom didn’t get new shoes at the start of the year, and he’s put at least a thousand miles on the already worn out hand-me-down pair he has. The laces are a tangle of knots that have long quit doing the job they were meant for – lacing – which makes playing on the playground especially difficult. Hard to win a race when your shoes won’t stay on.
And we’ve hardly ignored the fact that Bransom needed new shoes. One of the challenges of being in the school business though, is you find a lot of children need a lot of things. The how-to and we-could-maybe solutions aren’t nearly so obvious. We went so far as to looking in the old shoe to try and find a size. No luck.
On Friday, instead of listening to the Pete the Cat Thanksgiving story, Bransom got busy pulling the soles of his shoes back to the heel to expose dirty sock feet.
“Look what my shoes can do,” Bransom said in amazement, stretching his legs in the air and holding the shoes and peeled-back soles up for all to see. Well forget Pete the Cat. Bransom’s shoes had the entire class’s attention.
At rest time, I traced around the ragged sole of Bransom’s old shoe and took it to the counselor’s office, and told her the tale of woe and worn out shoes.
She directed me to a closet, in a part of the school where I’d never been, where, lo and behold, there was a big shelf filled with new and barely-used children’s shoes, including a red-yellow-black pair about the size of the outline on the paper I’d brought along.
I got a pair of socks from a nearby bin and headed back to class, where naptime was ending.
“Look, Bransom,” I said.
“I like them,” he grinned, a bright, broad smile we don’t get to see often enough. “Are they for me?”
I am thankful this Thanksgiving for hundreds, maybe thousands of blessings in my life, but the whipped cream and cherry on top of all that I’m thankful for are children like Bransom, who need us and we are given charge of. And I am just as thankful for those we may not know or see, who fill shelves with shoes for children they may never meet, because they can. And they care. I am truly thankful to be in a place where I get to see the twain meet.
I have quoted before in this column space words attributed to the 19th century American Unitarian clergyman, writer and philosopher, William Henry Channing. I find it especially fitting at Thanksgiving, and especially proper for the story I’ve just shared.
My Thanksgiving hope for you is that you will find a truth and validation in Mr. Channing’s words. May the words offer a bit of appreciation and encouragement for your life.
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury; and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babies and sages with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly; act frankly; talk gently; await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is my symphony.”
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is an instructional assistant and freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly bi-weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.