Friday, December 25, 2015

For Sale: Skates, size 10

My gift to all this day is a story shared with me many years ago by a dear family friend of my parents. A story of hope found in the decision to take a little risk . . . a story of the ways we are all connected in this wonderful family called the human race . . . Enjoy! 

Two lines of small print in the local paper were the beginning of a Christmas we shall never forget.

It was the first of December, time to corral all available funds, and spend them again on two growing children, ages 8 and 13. Steve’s outgrown skates were an obvious item. They could still provide miles of icy pleasure for some boy with smaller feet. It was worth the price of an ad in the Sunday paper.

The phone rang at noon and a male voice demanded, “I want the skates. I have the twenty dollars. Please, I want them today.” His speech was high-pitched and rapid, foreign and unclear.
“But,” I said, “You haven’t seen them. We will be here all day, and you may come look at them before you buy.”

“No, no,” was his quick reply. “I can’t come. I have no car. You bring them to me. I have the twenty dollars in my hand.”

Something about the desperate urgency in his voice made us pause. “Where are you?” we asked, shaking our heads, ready to call it a hoax and hang up.

“Boston, downtown. I can meet you this afternoon if you will bring the skates. I have the twenty dollars you want for them. Please.”

He waited while we shared incredulous looks, shook our heads, pondered, questioned and then nodded in reserved agreement.

Were we acting irresponsibly, to the thrill of adventure? Were we responding to a teenage ploy? We weren’t sure, only aware that a strange pull was drawing us to downtown Boston, on this calm, bright Sunday afternoon.

With reassuring hugs for the children, who would be left in the care of neighbors, we planned our 20 mile drive into Boston, street map in hand. We nearly turned back as we neared the city, but the image of the mysterious stranger drew us on.

We spotted him near a lamppost on the corner he had designated, huddled against the Boston wind, checking, each car in the meager Sunday traffic. He was short and stocky, Asian, young, almost boyish. The moment we stopped, he was at the car, pulling a crisp twenty-dollar bill from his pocket. We insisted on opening the box to show him the skates, which we had cleaned and polished until they looked nearly new. His whole face smiled as he took them and bowed, over and over, with traditional expressions of gratitude.

We were glad we had come. This animated face was worth the trip. Time now to go home to our waiting children.

Still sitting in the car, we acknowledged his thanks, and started the motor. But before we could move, a grand gesture by the young man clutching the skates kept us imprisoned. We were suddenly surrounded by a bedlam of boys, tall, short, brown, black, Asian, dancing and shouting, pounding on our windows.

“Hey, man, you’re the best!”, “Thank Y’all!”, “Merry Christmas!”, “We did it!”, “He said we could!” “You’re the greatest, man!”

We seemed to be the center of a spontaneous outdoor revival meeting. We turned off the motor, opened the windows and listened to their story. It came out in exuberant fragments, but with final clarity.

Their leader was a Chinese student, living in the nearby housing project.  Hockey was his love, and so he had gathered some neighborhood kids and channeled their unbounded energy wherever they could find an empty corner of ice. They had finally become a team, vigorous and loyal. There was a big problem this winter, though. Their star goalie had outgrown his skates. No way could he afford new ones. He needed size 10.

So, secretly, for weeks, his teammates had been pooling hard earned coins until they reached their fantasy goal of $20.00. Their leader had promised they would find the right skates before Christmas. Together, the boys had read the small print daily, following every word with their fingers as well as their eyes. Today they had found it. They knew, before seeing the skates, the miracle was happening.
Once more, we looked at each other in wonder. What if we had not come? What if we had failed to take the risk?

It was Christmas in the car, we glowed as we drove north headed for home.  –Peg Sirley

Our stories connect us, one to another - so this holiday season it is my hope that as you gather you'll take the time to share your stories and connect with eachother.

Happy Holidays from my world to yours!

Copyright: Martha Reed Johnson 12-25-2015 - Peg Sirley's story shared with permission
Photo's by Martha Reed Johnson - copyright 12-15-2015