Denis hoisted the sack of shoes onto the front of the boda. Monday morning had arrived and that meant it was time to pass out shiny new shoes to the P1 students and to the children living on campus. Although the road was clear and Denis zipped along, the ride to school seemed interminably long.
Finally we reached the campus and Denis hefted the sack off the boda. I enlisted the help of my son, Geoffrey, and two of my young writers from last year, Richard and Johnson. Together we lined the shoes up on the step outside of the classroom, each pair with a child’s name carefully penned of the tag. 27 pairs in all.
Half an hour before school was finished Mr. Martin brought the class outside and I called out the name of each and handed them their shoes, Mr. Martin and my three older student helpers stood ready to help tie all those shoes.
When I handed each student their shoes and a bright white pair of socks, they were too surprised to speak. The took the shoes and then in a bit of a daze, they got help putting them on. I’ve seen this dazed look before on my own first grade students when we went on field trips that were so amazing that all they could do was stand there and take it in.
One little one said, “Thank you” as I handed her a pair of shoes and the rest of the children remembered their manners and followed suit, thanking me in their best English.
When everyone had been given their new shoes, it was time for pictures. Some of the kids grinned so widely that I was sure I could see every single tooth. Others were still dazed. They sang their goodbye song and I recorded a bit of it to show the donors and then clapped to show their appreciation.
When Mr. Martin dismissed them to go inside and stack their chairs and go home, they stomped up the stairs, giggling at the sound of their new shoes on the pavement. I laughed as they stomped up a storm and when they came back outside, every single child stopped to shake my hand and say thank you.
As they walked off campus, I watched them carefully avoiding mud puddles to keep their shoes shiny and clean. One little girl stopped every few feet to dust off any specks of dirt that got on her shoes. I can only imagine how long it took her to walk home that day!
Another little girl could not wear her new shoes that day. In all my days on campus, I’d never seen her wear shoes. She had a wound on her foot from walking everywhere without shoes. She is the reason this Vigilante Act of Kindness was so needed. She’s the reason why I’m so appreciative of all the Vigilantes who made this shoe project possible. I watched this little girl walk home, cradling her new shoes carefully in her arms. I saw her again two days later wearing her new shoes, protecting her precious feet, and couldn’t help but smile in gratitude for my friends and family who had offered of themselves to provide her with shiny new shoes.
There is a musee (an elder) who stands guard at the front of the school. His English is as good as my Acholi, a fact that we laugh about daily. When Denis picked me up from school that day, the musee stopped me. He shook my hand and in words I think he’d been practicing all day, he said, “Well done, Madame. Well done.” So to my fellow Vigilantes of Kindness, I pass along his words and with a full heart I say to you, “Well done, friends. Well done.”