“Where’d you get those shoes? They’re ugly!”
Callie looked up from her book. Lisa had plunked down in the bus seat across the aisle and was making a face at her shoes.
“I don’t remember—they’re just shoes.”
Lisa had a pair of brand-new boots, trimmed with brass buckles. “They look like a discount store special to me.”
The words in Callie’s book swam before her eyes. Mom probably had gotten the shoes at a discount store. Since Dad’s hours had been cut at the plant, the whole family was on a budget. She tried to ignore Lisa.
But Lisa persisted. “So where did you get them?”
“What’s it to you, Lisa? Just bug off,” Callie said angrily. She looked out the window, glad that the next stop was Lisa’s.
“OK, OK! You don’t have to get mad! I was only wondering!” Lisa smirked as she left.
Callie watched Lisa walk up the driveway, her smart leather boots swinging stylishly.
That night Callie was helping with the dishes when she asked, “Mom, did you get my shoes at a discount store?”
“Yes. You needed some for school. Don’t you like them?”
“OK but not great, I take it.”
“They’re fine, really,” Callie said hastily. She knew her parents were doing their very best to make ends meet.
“Did somebody say something about them?” Mom was concerned.
“Lisa did, but I don’t care—she’s just stuck-up.”
“Maybe so,” Mom said, “and not everyone has been taught to be kind, as you have.”
“Lisa certainly isn’t kind!” Callie purposely missed her mother’s point.
“Maybe she’s insecure.”
“Whatever she did,” Mom said, “you can choose to forgive her and not be angry. You’ll feel better if you do.”
Callie didn’t answer out loud, but she was thinking, Hmph! If you had seen what happened, you wouldn’t say that. Who wouldn’t be angry?
She was relieved when Lisa wasn’t at school the next day. That evening her dad was rushing to get ready for a church meeting.
“Callie,” Mom asked, “would you mind helping me with the grocery shopping tonight? We’ll drop Dad off and pick him up later.”
“Sure, Mom. My homework’s done, and that sounds like fun. Can we get an ice-cream cone on the way home?”
“You bet. With your help, we should have time for one—or we can get one after we get Dad later.”
When Callie entered the grocery store, she yanked a cart free and headed for the fruit section while Mom went to choose cereal. Everyone who saw Callie carefully choosing bananas and grapes smiled at her, and she smiled back.
She was in the pasta aisle when her pleasant mood was disrupted by a woman’s harsh voice in the next aisle.
“Now what are you doing?” the voice snapped. “Put that back on the shelf and stop trying to put everything you see in our cart. I can’t take you anywhere!”
Whoever the woman was talking to made some reply, but it was too soft and short for Callie to hear.
“What did you say?” the woman responded sharply. “Stop whining everytime you can’t have your own way.”
Callie had come to the end of her aisle. She decided to pass by the next one, then come back to it later. But as she hurried by, she almost ran into Lisa! Her head was down and her cheeks were red, but she had to have seen Callie go by.
How awful for Lisa’s mother to treat her like that! Mom would never talk to me that way! Callie stared down at her list, hoping that Lisa and her mother were not moving in her direction. She didn’t want Lisa to be humiliated anymore. Then she heard Mrs. Johnson at the checkout counter, barking at Lisa to hurry up.
Monday morning, Callie sat in her usual place on the bus, determined to act as if nothing had happened. Lisa walked straight to the back. She’ll probably never speak to me again, thought Callie, and I won’t have to worry about what to say.
But on the way home from school, Lisa sat behind Callie. “Did I mention that I saw your shoes at the discount store?”
Callie was stunned. Lisa was at it again! Should she say something about what happened in the grocery store? Then she remembered how ashamed Lisa had been, and suddenly it didn’t matter what Lisa said. Turning to face her, Callie said quietly, “I’m sorry you don’t like my shoes, but I can’t do much about it. Dad’s hours have been cut at work and we’re on a tight budget.”
Lisa blushed. All she said was, “Oh.”
Callie turned back around. She could have added “at least my mother cares about me,” but she hadn’t—and she was glad. She knew now what Mom had meant when she said that she didn’t have to be angry. She could also forgive.
Callie felt someone sit down next to her. It was Lisa! “Callie,” she said timidly, “I like your shoes. There’s really nothing wrong with them.”
Callie didn’t know what to say. “Thanks,” was all she could manage.
Lisa’s stop was coming up, but she obviously had something else on her mind. Finally, she faltered, “I guess you saw me and my mom at the store.”
“I know she loves me. I don’t understand why she always screams at me like that.”
Callie thought for a moment, then said softly, “Don’t worry about it, Lisa. She probably just hasn’t ever learned how to be kind—maybe no one ever taught her.”
The bus squeaked to a stop, and Lisa got up to get off. With a quavery smile she said, “Thanks, Callie. See you tomorrow?”
Callie felt like singing as the bus moved on and she watched Lisa’s leather boots swing stylishly up her driveway.