Know what its like to walk into a room and be noticed? Not because you have Johnny Depp’s personality or looks, but because you smell like fried foods?
Working my way through college was the pits. Sort of.
Bright enough to team-tag as few brain cells as possible, I zipped through B.C. (B.efore C.ollege) then found myself bumping into pretty much everything except palm trees at ‘the’ sort-of expensive higher educational grounds - thanks to a partial scholarship.
Living in a dorm, working at the bookstore on campus, garnering a supplimental paycheck courtasy of Chic-in-a-bucket wasn’t exactly Donald Trump material, but it gave me enough time to grab my books, boot up the laptop and do some intensive studying while traveling back and forth on the bus.
I learned how to not look quite so nerdy by stuffing my work clothes and a spray bottle (to mist my clothes down once changing in the restaurant’s bathroom) in my backpack. Acted dumb when someone would say, “Someone’s got fried chicken…”
Because I occasionally got tired of eating free chicken and noodles in a paper cup, I answered an ad for a Santa at the mall.
Employed as the Jolly Guy, I suffered through the class in proper Santa etiquette.
I think I was a test market for sucker Santa wannabe’s.
Candy canes stuck to my beard; candy canes barfed up by the little guys; trauma from a few screaming kiddoes loud enough to vibrate and damage my eardrums; greedy kids compiling a list that sometimes sounded scary; a few dreamers; one a product of the debunked flower children wanting only World Peace, and a few really sad ones asking for a parent’s return from the military, healed family relationships, sickness.
It was depressing.
Two days before Christmas, this kid, ’bout 5 years old calmly waits in line. We study each other, his eyes deep brown, soulful.
He says, “You’re not very good at this, are you?”
“Ho-ho-ho…Santa has off days now and then, it’s awfully close to Christmas, ya know.”
He slides up to my lap. Leans in real close. “It’s ok. Get different boots. Those don’t look very comfortable.”
“Watch what you’re studying. There’s more to life than books and fried chicken.” he said with a grin, facing the camera as it flashed.
As he jumped down, I was attacked by a rowdy set of triplets.
Buckling down to studies after the holidays, I kept to my busy but boring routine.
Got a postcard asking if I’d be interested in dressing up as the “Spring Rabbit” for mall pictures.
Same class, different costume. It was a sauna. Had 10 minute breaks every half hour.
Now savvy to the kiddoes, the line seemed to move briskly.
Squinting out the gauze-covered eye-holes, a familiar young face stood in front of me.
“Hi.” He said.
“Hi,” I responded male-macho bunny-like.
Grinning he looked down. “Got the wrong shoes, again.”
Sliding to my lap, I asked, “What is with you, kid? You like different shoes or what?”
“School getting better?”
“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to ask you?”
“Yeah, but sometimes what you learn away from school makes it easier.”
“Like finding shoes that fit you. If they don’t fit, they just look funny. You start actin’ kinda like what the shoes are suppose’ to be for.”
“O.K…time to smile for the camera…”
“God can show you how to wear the right shoes…”
“I got it. You’re the son of a Preacher, huh?”
He put his nose up against my rabbit one and grinned. “Kinda-sorta.”
Turning to face the camera again, the flash sparked, and he jumped down.
Weird one, I thought.
A small voice cried out, “Where’d your bunny-feet go?”
About the same time I looked down, Sherry, the photographer called out. “Greg, get that kid back! The camera wasn’t working right!”
Confused, I stood on new sandals, comfortable. The hole in my right sock had my big toe sticking out.
“Go get him back!” she motioned.
Seems those sandals kept me walking.
Stopped whining over my personal stuff. Started tutoring. Liked it enough to change classes. Graduated. Became a teacher. Found a church. Found Christ. Found a woman to love, and who loves me back.
Oh, and found a picture in one of the student’s dorm rooms one afternoon.
Weird thing was that this little guy and the rest of his family were missionaries in South Africa. Seems they’d all been praying for us students.
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