Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Power Shoes

I look so cute today!
Oh, yes, I do have good self-esteem. I'll qualify that I have good self-esteem today. I don't think there's one woman on the planet whose inner applause meter is always registering high.
I've got on the long-sleeved brown cotton India import dress with all the crewel work. Thrift store. It goes down to my ankles! Can you stand it, Muslimahs?! If you are reading this as a non-Muslim, you might not see the significance. Trust me it's hard to shop in the U.S. for fully-covering clothes that fit you loosely enough, are long enough, are made of breathable material and still feel like "you".
My difficulties shopping and being a presentable Muslimah in the U.S. are probably part of the reason why I get so disgruntled at the sight of my husband's ex in photos. She lives in a Muslim country! There is a person selling hejab on every block! There are complete outfits with MATCHING hejab. And if you do wear modest clothing in Egypt, you are respected more instead of harassed more, as I have been in the U.S. Today, I wore the beige hejab I bought right before I went to Egypt. Back then, I only had the beige one and a white one. Both of them were slippery synthetic Georgette and I wore a cap underneath to keep them on. I was so hot! And I mean sweaty not sexy. I've since figured out that those fancy hejabs aren't part of my everyday apparel.
Anyway, my shoes today were the most important item I was wearing. They are power shoes. What is a power shoe? It is any footwear that helps you walk through an amazing life moment. Once you have worn them through that milestone, you get power from them every time you wear them again. It's my own personal philosophy.
The shoes are Aerosoles 8 1/2, open-toed, low heel pumps with two wide brown straps. The upper strap velcros. They are so comfortable. They seemed like the right shoes to wear in a very uncomfortable situation.Today, I had to go to the school music program and be in the same room with the ex and the outlaws. Remember I said that I had been married previoulsy for 9 1/2 years? Well, those years produced kids, who I mostly won't blog about.
It was actually a music program, all those years ago, that turned those pumps into power shoes. When the shoes were new, my oldest came home with an invitation to the music program. I was startled to see the date. It was going to be on what would have been our 10th wedding anniversary.
I stood there in my kitchen, trying to seem excited while telling myself, "There's no way in hell I'm going to tell my kid that I can't make it because I don't want to see his father on our wedding anniversary."
So I blathered something out and the kid sweetly answers, "Dad said maybe you wouldn't come because it's your wedding anniversary."
Great. He told the kid. Why did he have to tell the kid?! I promised I would come. I would take off work and come to see the show. I would not sit next to their dad. I would not even look at him. I would think of a thousand other things that I would not do in order to make it through.
The day came. I dressed for work and put on my new shoes. I thought about what a terrible ordeal I was preparing for. I went to work and told every co-worker what day it was and how I was feeling so jumpy about the whole thing. I left work in a nervous state of mind, but I started to pray.
Prayer can be done almost any time and in almost any place. Muslims do the five ritualistic prayers that are scheduled, but we also keep Allah in our minds and hearts throughout the day. Even before I started practising Islam, I was remembering God in my daily life. And there I was in the car driving over to the school. I was looking good but I was feeling all churned up inside.
I turned off the freeway into the neighborhood and was within a mile of the school when I saw him. He was running down the sidewalk. This was a school-age boy who was not in school. And he wasn't jogging, or happily racing, he was running for his life; as if his life depended on it. I slowed down and looked. I then saw that he didn't have any shoes. He was running with only socks.
I drove one block more and then turned around. That wasn't right. Something was desperately wrong with that boy. He was somebody's son, even if he wasn't mine. If I didn't help him, then who would?
I had turned the car around. I was no longer headed for the school. The program started in ten minutes. There was the boy. He was little and chubby. Maybe around nine years old. I pulled over and talked to him through the open window."Hi! It looks like you need some help."
He looked over at me and then ran through a yard to get away from me. I'm a pretty persistant person, which he didn't know, but was soon going to find out. I turned the corner and started to scan the yards. Where did he go?
There! I spotted him. He was now in the wooded area behind the houses. He was trudging through the tall grass. I stopped the car and got out in my nice clothes and new shoes and I had seven minutes to make it to the school on time."Hey! Hey! Come on back!" I called. "I know something is wrong and I want to help you!"He was gone. I started down the hill and into the tall grass when I realized that it wasn't stable ground. I looked down. It was a swamp. I swallowed hard. I really loved my new shoes. I looked up to see where the boy was. He had reached the edge of the wooded area and was now scaling the chain link fence. On the other side of the fence was the freeway.
"Hey! Dude! Stop! Get back here! I've got a cell phone," and I thank God for cell phones, "and I'm going to call the police on you if you don't come back."
"Leave me alone!" He called back in obvious distrust.
By that time I was sinking through the swamp water turning shiny shoes into covered-in-muck shoes. I was about to reach him when he escaped the only way he could. He couldn't go forward or backward, so he went up. He climbed a tree. There I stood with the clock ticking. My sweet child, in the costume I had made, was waiting for me at school. Why waste my time on this kid?
"Can you come down?" I was shouting up at him.
"No! You can't make me!"
"No, but I can talk with you and see what's wrong!"
It was a little hard counseling at high decibels, but I kept going, "I used to work at the emergency shelter!"
"How did you know I was from there?"
Wow. I hadn't known that. I was only using my resume credentials so he'd know that I was a verifiable good person. But it all made sense. The shelter was about two miles from where we were. When the children were at danger for running from the shelter, the staff took their shoes as a deterent. It obviously hadn't detered shoeless Joe.
"Look, I'm also a mom," I reasoned. "My kid is in the music program and it stars in five minutes. Can you just come with me now so I can make it there in time and then I help you figure everything else out?"
There was silence. Except for my shoes making the squeaky squishy sound when I shifted my weight, there was silence.
"I don't want to go back. I want to see my mom."
That was sad to hear. Most kids at the emergency shelter were there from abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or other family members. Yet, every child still missed their home.
"OK. I hear you. We can talk about it; you and me. It's either you and me going now, or I call the police and they talk with you." I had to rush him so I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. "Can you get down now? Or should I call the police?"
Thankfully, he started down the tree and made it safely down. He didn't try to run any more. He had come to trust me. As gratifying as that was, it was also a little depressing that child abductors and molestors probably pick up runaways more.
We went through the murky waters one more time. He was ahead of me and could have escaped, but he was a tame boy by then and didn't. We got into my car and I checked the time. Three minutes.
"OK. Thanks for coming with me. I do want to talk with you, but my kid is expecting me to be sitting in the audience right now. Let's make it there, " I talked as quickly as I zoomed through the neighborhood. "You can sit with me and watch the performance and then I'll help you out."
We were parking a block away. The parents who hadn't been rescuing a runaway had gotten all the good parking spots. Time to get out and make a run, well not a run; make a mad dash for the door. But he didn't want to get out. It was one minute to go.
"I've only got socks on. Everybody will see that."
"Dude, your socks are so dirty right now they look like shoes. And look at my shoes! You look better than me. Come on!"
The mother with the son who wasn't hers walked across the street and to the door. My adrenaline was pumping as we entered the auditorium. The show hadn't started yet! Incredibly, we made it on time! I saw my littlest one just waiting for mom. She was a bit surprised at the boy with me.
"He's a friend of mine, " I explained. "He's going to watch the show and then I'm going to help him."
I didn't explain it just then to the man from whom I was separated. The show was about to start.The boy sat so calmly and leaned over to ask which kid on stage was mine. He listened and clapped. He was very attentive. My own kid did a good job too. I settled down knowing that I had done the right thing.When the show ended, I congratulated my little performer and told a shorthand explanation to the kids' dad. The principal was right there so I pulled him aside to discuss the situation with him.
"Oh, him?" The principal was unusually sour sounding. "He's run away before. He just wants the attention."
"Well, then, " I offered. "Let's give him some, because if we don't, he'll end up somewhere worse than the shelter."
The principal got a push from me to meet with the boy and I wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. The three of us sat in the office to figure out what was going on. In the end, the boy had to go back to the place that would take him, as his mother couldn't take him. It was sad. I said my goodbyes and tried hard not to cry. Crying wasn't going to give anything to this poor boy.
My shoes got a scrub with paper towels before I went back to work. As I scrubbed, I thought about all that I had just gone through with them. They had become power shoes.
See, in my prayer to God, I had asked for help to get through a tough time. God answered my prayer when I became a catalyst in someone else's life. I felt God's presence as an active force in my life. As I was giving aid and comfort to an unfortunate child, I stopped dwelling on my situation, my fears, my worries. Me. Me! ME! God guided me through a test which seemed crazy and still seems crazy to this day. But, I did it. I was there and I can testify that God was there too.
I never saw the little boy again. I think of him. I thought of him today when I once again put on the shoes and drove once again to another music program. I pray for him. Please pray for him too.

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