On a cold winter morning in the late 1930s Bobby awoke early.
It wasn’t a day that would be remembered by many, nor would it go down in history as especially important. But it was a day that Bobby would never forget.
Bobby, his mother, and his three younger brothers were once again abandoned by Bobby’s father. When times got hard, the man who was supposed to be the head of the house left home. He couldn’t handle the responsibility of a hungry family. It wasn’t the first time he left, so Bobby wasn’t surprised.
Bobby searched the bare cupboards and realized there was no food in the kitchen. His tummy was growling. So he put on the warmest clothes he had.
He pulled on an old pair of socks and placed cardboard in his worn-out shoes. With holes in the soles, he hoped the cardboard would help keep his feet dry, at least for a little while. Bobby hit the roads looking for work. He was a strong child and had worked many times before. His goal was to earn enough money to purchase food for the day along with a few cans of vegetables for Christmas dinner.
A few blocks from home, Bobby came across some men working on the side of the road. “Can I help?” Bobby inquired.
“Sure,” one of the men answered and tossed him a shovel. Bobby worked hard for hours. Suddenly, the rain and sleet pounded down.
“Here’s your money,” one of the men shouted, as he tossed him a few coins. “Go home and get out of this weather.”
Bobby clutched the change in the palm of his hand. He then ran to the nearest grocery store. He used the money to buy as much food as he could afford. His socks were soaking wet. His feet were numb. While holding a small bag of groceries, Bobby stopped to adjust the cardboard in his shoes.
A man in uniform, a representative from The Salvation Army, witnessed Bobby’s distress.
“Hey son,” the kind gentleman said. “Are those the only shoes you have?”
“Yes Sir,” Bobby confessed.
The uniformed man took Bobby and bought him a brand new pair of shoes. Bobby danced and skipped all the way home.
I wasn’t there on that cold December day. But I’ve heard the story many times and could always picture my father, as a child, dancing and skipping, wearing a shiny pair of dress shoes home. Daddy often spoke about how he could see his reflection in those special shoes.
Several years later, Daddy joined the Navy. He continued to send money home to support his family. But Daddy always saved enough money for the Salvation Army, hoping that another little boy somewhere may receive a new pair of shoes for Christmas.
The tradition lasted until my father became too ill to shop. Daddy passed away six years ago.
It is my hope that many people will remember this story when they hear the Salvation Army bells ring at store fronts and malls all over this country. And in Daddy’s memory, I pray that little children everywhere will have the opportunity to dance and skip.
While the new shoes kept Bobby’s feet warm in the 1930s, his act of giving back for several decades warmed his heart in a much greater way.
Each time I drop money in a Salvation Army bucket, I remember my father, his story, and his first new pair of shoes. Then I count it as a blessing to be able to give.
In my mind’s eye, I can see a child somewhere — dancing, skipping and wearing a new pair of dress shoes — and my heart is warmed, as well.
Nancy B. Gibbs nancybgibbs[email protected]