When I was a little girl all the shoes in my house were lined up in the laundry room assorted by size and purpose. The tennis shoes for gym class, flip flops and sandals for summer, church shoes only worn for special occasions, soccer shoes, and rain boots, almost as if there were a specific shoe for every occasion. When shoes had holes we no longer wore them and when we outgrew them we got new ones. The only times you would catch me without my shoes where those days in which I would run out of the house trying to catch up to my older sister, Nora. I was quickly reminded of these days when I arrived in Talanga and spent my first day at the Comedor Infintil Pasionista.
As we arrived we were very anxious to see the results of the hard work of the previous volunteers and to meet the children who would become such an intricate part of our lives and a focal point of our work over the coming months. As they came pouring into the comedor I noticed that many of them didn’t have shoes on. It was almost as if they came running from their houses as soon as they saw the truck pull up, not wanting to be left behind or miss anything like I so often felt when I was little. But day in and day out many of them still did not wear shoes and I began to realize that many of these children do not have shoes.
The ones who were lucky enough to have shoes wear them despite having holes, being the wrong size or for the entirely wrong occasion like Erikson, a little boy who is only about 3 years old, who came to comedor last week sporting rain boots on one of clearest blue-skied days with no grey cloud in sight. He was just happy to be wearing a pair of shoes.
One of the notorious “no shoe wearers” is a 4 year old boy named Willie, whom his friends have fondly dubbed “Willie Wonka.” Willie has a smile that can light up an entire room and lift everyone’s spirit. Whenever I ask Willie about his shoes he merely looks up and smiles never seeming to be bothered in the slightest by walking around dirt streets with pebbles, puddles, and trash in his bare feet. We recently had our Día de los Niños party for the comedor and every child came dressed in the nicest clothes that they own. Willie came running into the party with a huge smile splashed across his face, his hair jelled back, and nice black shoes on his feet. While he was dancing, I took notice that his shoes were actually a pair of soccer cleats.
One harsh reality of poverty was dancing at my feet. I took for granted as a child that I would have a new pair of shoes whenever I needed them. It had now seemed so wonderful watching Willie smiling in his soccer shoes, spinning in circles. For Willie, a pair of shoes, whether for the wrong occasion, perhaps the wrong size, or even covered in a plethora of holes, is simply a pair of shoes and in that respect is something to cherish. And so he danced.
- Molly Beggy is a Passionist Volunteer serving in Honduras.