Back-to-School time was difficult for my mother back on the farm. New clothes and shoes for my brothers and me were costly so she was careful to get things that would last. I yearned for black patent leather shoes, and each year was told no. She said “Black patent leather shoes are not practical. They will get wet when the snows come and will crack and wear out in no time.”
Then when I was nine, Mama asked Dad to take us to get our school clothes since she wasn’t feeling well. She warned Dad that I would ask for black patent leather shoes, but that I couldn’t have them because they wouldn’t last and were a poor use of our money.
As soon as we entered the shoe store, I asked for them. He immediately refused and cited Mama’s admonition. Well, that didn’t stop me! I continued to beg and told him I always wanted these shoes and Mama wouldn’t get them for me.
Dad finally said to me, “If I get these shoes for you, will you take extra good care of them?”
“Oh, yes, Dad,” I answered, as hope entered.
Dad said, “You have to promise that you won’t get anywhere near any water because if those shoes get wet, they will crack and be ruined. And you will have to regularly spread Vaseline on them to keep them from cracking. Do you promise?”
“Dad, I promise, I will take really good care of them.”
Dad bought the shoes and took a tongue lashing from my mother when we got home. He responded, “she wanted the shoes and she promised to take extra good care of them.”
The very next day my cousins from Nebraska came to see us. They rarely ever came since they lived far away. I felt so proud to wear my wonderful new shoes.
They were city kids and we were just farm kids so I wanted to brag a little bit about the wonders of the farm. I asked them, “Have you ever seen quick sand?”
They answered, “No.”
“Follow me” I said “and I’ll take you down to the river and show you quick sand right here on our farm.”
They liked the idea and followed me. I showed them the sand at the river. I said “Just go out there a little way and see how the sand gives way under your feet.”
Each, in turn, said they were afraid.
So I said “OK, I’ll go.”
I had walked on the sand many times before; and it was always solid. But on this day with my black patent leather shoes on, I started sinking into the sand, and it was very wet under the surface. My cousins grabbed my hands and pulled me back to shore.
While it felt good to show them “quick-sand,” I knew I was in big trouble. Here I stood on the first day of wearing my new shoes, and they were already wet and sandy.
My cousins and I headed back to the house. All the while, I was thinking how I could get in the house without Dad or Mama seeing my shoes. As we entered the yard, Dad immediately saw them and yelled, “You go to your room, and I’ll be in there in a minute.”
I sat in fear on my bed waiting for what seemed like forever. Finally, he came in and instead of giving me a spanking, which is what I thought I would get, he just gave me a talking to about how disappointed he was that I had broken my promise in such a short time. He said, “Your cousins told me what happened and that it was an accident.”
Well, I cleaned up my shoes right away and lathered them down with Vaseline. I had to put on my old worn-out shoes for the rest of the day.
I learned that day in the midst of a family celebration and surrounded by cousins that it doesn’t pay to try to be something you are not. We are taught that in Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (NIV)
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