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Holiday Shoes

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My parents are dreamers. My parents dream about the future and never let anyone tell them what they cannot have.

Slowly, I am learning to be more like my parents.

One of my most memorable experiences came when I was six years old. Back then, our household was the black 7th Heaven.

When I began the first grade, my mother bought me a pair of black shoes from Payless Shoe Source.

The shoes were simple, not brand name and as a child I loved them. The shoes were comfortable enough so that I could play in them and wear them to church.

Eventually, these shoes became incredibly tattered and worn, but I still rocked these shoes like it was nobody's business.

Even though these shoes began talking (meaning the soles on the bottom decayed and the fabric from the actual shoe was so damaged that my toes were peeping through) I continued to sport these kicks.

My mother purchased these shoes at the start of the school year and by December these shoes looked so bad that I was taken aside one day by my schoolteacher.

I will never forget her, Mrs. Susan Pratt from Manatee Elementary School. Mrs. Pratt was one of the kindest people I have ever known.

Mrs. Pratt had shoulder-length red hair, a dazzling white smile, and the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen on a human being.

She had a very gentle spirit and never yelled even though we often got on her nerves.

Mrs. Pratt would simply count down from ten to get everyone's attention. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4,...by 3 we were all quiet.

On the worst occasions, she would chastise select individuals by spelling the word trouble, which meant someone was going to go to timeout or to the office. I remember her saying, T-R-O-U-B-L-E (THAT SPELLS TROUBLE).

Needless to say, spelling remains very easy for me because of this early lesson.

I remember thinking when she pulled me aside one day, "Oh no, what did I do wrong?"

However, Mrs. Pratt reassured me that everything was fine, I was not in trouble. Mrs. Pratt sent me to the office. "It's a surprise," she said.

I took the slip and walked to the office to get this thing. When I got to the office. I saw a bunch of wrapped presents.

My little eyes lit up.

I knew that I was definitely not in trouble.

I walked to the assistant at the front desk.

The woman observed my slip and told me to follow her. I walked nearer to the gifts and she picked one out for me.

I asked her what it was and she said she had no clue.

As a child, I wanted to unwrap the gift right away, but I waited until I got home.

Whenever I rode the bus home from school, I always stayed quiet and chose the window seat.

I never liked to interact with the other kids, not because I thought I was "all that," or "high and mighty" but because I was very shy.

I am still overcoming my social anxiety as a twenty-two year old.

Anyway, that afternoon, I sat with this unopened gift in my hands.

I walked home with my tattered kicks and finally got into my house.

I opened the gift and smiled from ear to ear. The present was a new pair of shoes.

Mrs. Pratt understood that my parents wanted to give me everything in the world because she had her own children.

All mothers understand one another, it is a remarkable trait.

I showed my mom the present that I had received and my mother started to cry.

I asked her, "What's wrong mommy?"

My mom did not respond right away. At first, I was worried, but then, I remember thinking that sometimes people cried and they were not necessarily sad.

These were definitely tears of joy. Our hearts really connected.

Even though I was only a child, I understood that Mrs. Pratt went above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher that day.

And my mother knew that her son was in very good hands.

People used to say that kids from my school would all be poor and pathetic. People used to say that no learning could occur in these schools.

That these poor Haitian, Latino, and white kids would never amount to anything.

Pessimistic people are usually wrong.

Although we were broke, we dreamed of better things.

We sacrificed. We worked hard. We endured.

In the back of our minds my mother and I knew things would get better...and they did.

Now, I can give my little brother shoes, shoes that I do not even want.

Now, I have a shoe rack in my apartment in Pittsburgh.
This shoe rack holds shoes that I have maintained since my days in middle and high school.

Now, I have disposable income. I can send shoes to my cousins in Little Haiti and my relatives in Haiti as well.

And, I cannot forget about my brothers and sisters in the struggle.

I know that despite all my moral shortcomings, I love to give back, especially to those who deserve the generosity.

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