Deep Fried Poor

I don't know what it is about shoes and poverty. They're the first things to go when times get rough; first things you buy when you can.

They were poor. Deep-fried poor. So destitute, they didn’t have running water. And according to my sources, they cooked meals over an oil drum. The kids had hardly any meat on their bones.

They say the pastor visited their house with money. The father refused the money, claiming things were looking up. But this was a Depression. There was no up.

The pastor left a check anyway. And I understand he cashed it before lunchtime.

The first thing school kids noticed were her new shoes. Red leather ones, she loved red. I don’t know what it is about shoes and poverty. They’re the first things to go when times get rough; first things you buy when you can.

The oldest girl walked with a bounce in her step, down the school hallways. She was a nice-looking girl, who rarely spoke. Nobody paid her any mind. Too bad. She had an angel-face. I suppose ratty clothes are hard for junior-high brats to look past.

It was during field class—when kids changed into white T-shirts and white shorts and exercised outside. She left her new bright-colored shoes in her locker.

When class was over, her shoes were gone.

They say she cried in front of everyone. A few kids laughed at her. The gym teacher’s blood pressure sky-rockted into the red-zone. Teachers held a school-wide search. They combed through every bag, locker, and trashcan.

Nothing.

She did a good job not showing sadness that day, but I understand she was sick-to-her-stomach blue. It wasn’t about the shoes, but about someone disliking her enough to steal them. About being so poor that footwear meant so much in the first place.

The next morning, before class, teachers ushered all students into the gymnasium. Theirs wasn’t a big school, the lot of kids only took up the first row of bleachers.

Then, all five middle-school teachers formed a line in the auditorium without saying a word. Even the janitor stood with them.

The principal, said something like, “When one of us suffers, we all do.” Then he quoted a Bible verse to drive his point home.

After that, one by one, the teachers took off their shoes and pitched them in the garbage can. The girl’s face turned red. As it happened, it was the exact same shade as the new shoes her teachers bought her.

All three pairs.

Truth be told, when I first heard this story, I didn’t know what to think.

But then, I’d always known there was a reason granny liked red shoes so much.

9 comments

  1. Tina Ranieri - September 18, 2016 12:29 am

    Heartwarming:)

    Reply
  2. Alan Stanley - April 22, 2017 10:02 am

    My mom grew up poor, one of mine children. She used to tell stories of shoes. How she tresured them. How you bought them a bit too large because you knew you wouldn’t see another pair for while. How they patched the holes with various things. I grew up poor. It was always a big deal to get a pair of new shoes for the school year. Yes, when you are poor you get by but it’s the little things that bring joy.

    Reply
  3. Alan Stanley - April 22, 2017 10:04 am

    My mom grew up poor, one of nine children. She used to tell stories of shoes. How she tresured them. How you bought them a bit too large because you knew you wouldn’t see another pair for while. How they patched the holes with various things. I grew up poor. It was always a big deal to get a pair of new shoes for the school year. Yes, when you are poor you get by but it’s the little things that bring joy.

    Reply
  4. Deanna - April 22, 2017 10:52 am

    How precious! If we were poor we didn’t know it till someone told us! We didn’t have shoes in the summer, except for Sunday shoes, but when school started we all had new shoes, all 9 of us, when we got new shoes for school , we all went to town and got sized up and fitted .
    I usually got the Keds tennis shoes, and always felt I could run faster than ever!
    Love your post!

    Reply
  5. Cheryl Edwards - April 22, 2017 12:56 pm

    It’s so sad because it’s so true! How we are treated as children affects us all of our lives!

    Reply
  6. LindaD - April 22, 2017 2:06 pm

    …and why good teachers mean so much in our and our children’s lives. Bless them.

    Reply
  7. Suzie Lally Rainey - April 22, 2017 9:21 pm

    Love your stories. That last line was a killer.

    Reply
  8. June Roulaine Phillips - April 23, 2017 8:59 am

    Your stories remind me some my parents would tell..

    Reply
  9. Sandra G - April 23, 2017 5:05 pm

    Oh man. You get me every time. I type this as a tear escapes my eye, falls from my cheek, and lands on my red shoe. *Sigh*

    Reply

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