Heidi Nicole lives up past the airport in Utila, which is a long walk to school for a child wearing good shoes. But Heidi Nicole is not wearing good shoes. Her shoes are noticeably big on her feet and she stuffs the toes with paper to keep them from falling off. She hates them. This we learn when we ask her why she isn’t wearing the shoes we gave her as part of her new uniform. She hesitantly informs us that her mother won’t let her wear the new shoes. She doesn’t want her daughter to ruin them. But, I’m happy to report that Heidi Nicole is wearing the new shoes since her mother relented upon learning that a teacher wanted to talk to her about the situation.
Days later, we spot another girl wearing ragged shoes that we are certain we gave new shoes to. Guadalupe is helping the English teacher clean the library after school. She is very serious about her work and she says “excuse me” to us when we are in the way of her sweeping. Guadalupe says, with first grade certainty, that the new ones don’t fit her feet after we inquire where her new shoes are. We ask her if she can fetch them so we can have a look. She lives nearby, unlike Heidi Nicole, and is back in short order with the shoes. They are still in the bag we gave them to her in. She puts them on her dirty feet and they fit fine. We tell her these shoes are for her to wear now. She stares up at us, then down at her feet with the shiny black shoes. She decides to wear them and when I am at the school a few days later there she is dressed in her whole new school uniform looking radiant.
Bayron represents a number of older boys who want shoes that are clearly too big for them now. The boys are thinking this is their one chance to get new shoes for years to come.
Me: “Those shoes are a bit big for you.”
Bayron: “I like them like this.”
Me: “Are you going to wear them?”
Me: “Can you run and play volleyball in them?”
Bayron, grinning: “Mmm Hmmm!”
Me: “Okay, then!”
The children have varying stories about why they aren’t wearing the new items but the most common reason we hear is the parents, or the kids themselves, want to wear out the clothing they have before putting on the new duds. We could tell the kids that they will have new uniforms next year also, but we can’t presume on the Lord. We hope we are here as God’s hands and feet for the public school children, but we don’t know our future. For now, we are enjoying getting to know the kids. We’ll continue to ask them why they aren’t wearing their new uniforms and listen.