Story by Cheri Lee Funk
I had twenty-one three-year-olds in my Florida Pre-Kindergarten class. They were beautiful bright children who were eager to learn. Most of the children were from single-parent homes. Wages in Florida were terrible and some parent’s felt lucky to have enough money left over during the week to buy groceries much less anything extra. Due to Florida’s mild climate, parents could save lots of money on clothing for their children. So shorts and tee shirts were the uniform on most days.
Now shoes were another story. The children would come in with all kinds of footgear. Some of the children came to school with their older brother or sister’s shoes outgrown shoes on. Too little for the older sibling but still too big for the little ones. Others came in wearing what we used to call flip-flops, those little rubber thong type sandals that many of us wore to the beach to keep the sand from burning our feet. Though we lived in Florida and we were blessed with many hot, sultry days, there was many a day when the weather would get a little too cool for these types of shoes.
Seeing these children day after day at school with such desire to learn was a wonderful experience and they brought me much joy. I was always trying to think of something I could do for them that would give back some of the love they had given me. Thus, the Shoe Man was born.
One day after leaving school, I stopped in the local department store and looked at children’s shoes. Wow!! The prices were out of sight! In shock and not sure how I was going to pull this off, I headed to our local Target store. I went straight to the Children’s Shoe Department and almost fell over a huge table filled with shoes they had just marked down to Clearance! My goodness, my guardian angel was looking over me that day!!
I started filling my basket with all kinds of shoes, little pink ones with bows, sandals, boots that either boys or girls could wear and athletic shoes. By the time I was done, I had over 30 pairs of shoes! As I was throwing the shoes in my basket, I was trying to add up the prices, to get an idea of how much this was going to cost. Finally, I gave up trying to add the prices up in my head; I had just gotten paid, so it didn’t matter what the cost would be. The Shoe Man was in business!!
When I rolled up to the checkout counter with my basket filled to the top with shoes, the clerk did a double take. She then asked me how many children I had. I proudly looked at her and said, “Twenty-one three-year-olds, Ma’am!”
You could see her thinking about that. She was left speechless and just shook her head. She bagged my purchase and as I turned to go, she was still standing there and shaking her head.
The next morning the teacher assistant, twenty-one little students and I headed off to eat our breakfast in the cafeteria. The assistant and I decided that after breakfast she would take the children the long way back to the classroom so I would have a few extra minutes before they arrived. I went to the front of the room and sat down on our floor. The children filed in, went to the front of the classroom and sat down on the rug forming a circle around me.
In front of me sat three huge bags, but no one said a word. I began by telling the children that I had a visit the day before by this very kind old man who made shoes. The man had come to me because he knew I had the smartest group of three-year olds in Sally Jones Elementary. And he had lots of kid’s shoes just lying around his workshop that he didn’t know what to do with them. He came to me thinking I might have an idea. With a big grin on my face, I looked out at twenty-one little faces filled with wonder and amazement that there was such a thing as The Shoe Man, and told them, “Yep, I knew what you can do with them. You could give them to me!” With that, I opened the first bag and pulled out some shoes! And with a hand full of shoes, I told the kids, “And now I am going to give those shoes to all of you!”
You would have thought it was Christmas for these children. We grabbed some extra pairs of socks that the Shoe Man just so happened to include and everyone started taking off what gear they were wearing on their feet and started helping each other put on the new shoes!! We had enough shoes to go around for everyone and even had a few extra pairs that could go home to siblings. My guardian angel was at the Target Store that day!!
This was such a wonderful and rewarding experience and brought so much joy to my heart. It is something I will not soon forget. I hope that everyone out there realizes how much joy they can bring to a child’s life by doing something as simple as creating, The Shoe Man.
By the way, if you find the Hat, Coat and Mitten Man or the New Clothes for School Man, would you send him my way……..
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