She also asked if we had any used men’s shoes for her son, size 40 (in America, about a 9). I have two pair of sneakers, so I promise her one pair. They are a size 42, but I think he’ll grow into them. I add “I’m afraid they’re sneakers, so, he won’t be able to wear them to school, will he?” “No,” she answered, “but look at his black uniform shoes, the soles are wearing right out. So if he has pair of sneakers that he can wear to hike around in, the black ones will last much longer.”
You see, the children in Costa Rica have to arrive at school already supplied with their own notebooks, uniforms, shoes, pencils, etc., and it’s a major expense; in fact, some parents pull their children from school. This mother and son are not lazy people. They work to support themselves. The boy goes around with his mother and helps out. They do get health care and some government food, I imagine, but it doesn’t give them enough to live on.
By the way, when we buy banana or zucchini bread from her, it’s not a “pity purchase”; this señora is a businesswoman and we are paying her what the bread is worth. I wouldn’t try to rob her of her dignity by handing her the money and waving away he bread. The shoes are another matter: I have two pair, and I can only wear one pair at a time. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)
Originally published in Sept 2011