The Two Pair of Shoes

On Thursday morning Owen left for his fifth-grade class trip to the mountains. It is a really big deal! They were gone for three days and two nights, staying at a school-type facility on a mountain about 2.5 hours away. One of the sixty year old men in our house church this morning said he had gone to the same place in fifth grade! Now that’s tradition.

Getting Owen ready for this was no small feat. Last Monday my friend Yuko (who also has a fifth grade son) came over and we went over the packing list together. I made my own easier-to-understand English list. The night before I went over my list and made sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. In Japan they don’t leave anything up to the whim of the parents. We were given an exact list of number of long sleeve, short sleeve, how many plastic bags, etc. Included on the list were two “etiquette bags” that they needed in their smaller backpacks in case they got sick on the bus ride. Check check check –we were good to go.

Thursday morning Eric, Ian and I walked with Owen to see him and the two fifth grade classes off. He had to carry his own stuff so he went to the corner of the living room where I had left his duffel and backpack the night before, slung them over his shoulder, and we walked to the school where the kids were to load the bus. Owen happened to be the class leader that morning and had to lead the official morning greetings for his fellow classmates, teachers, principal, and all the parents there to see them off.


Lots of pressure! In this short clip he is doing the initial greeting, commanding everyone to bow, introducing himself, and then introducing the principal. You can see some of the moms in the background in front of the school. (This is the school that was damaged by the tsunami and being rebuilt this next year, thus the painted window covers.)

After they single-file piled onto the bus, the parents and other staff stood in a long line – waving while the bus pulled away, swallowing lumps in our throat. I walked back home, ready to start my day- only to discover a terrible sight — Owen’s newly-purchased water sneakers were sitting on the floor, having been under the duffel bag that he grabbed on the way out a few minutes earlier. I remembered then that I had left them there the night before to go upstairs and find a better bag to stick them in – aarghh!! I had become distracted and forgotten. What to do? I knew the teacher had emphasized that the river where they would play and hike the next day has sharp rocks and they didn’t even want the kids to wear normal water shoes- so we had to buy special thicker sneakers for it. Barefoot, I was quite sure, would not be a good option.

I went next door to find Yuko at the Nozomi house. She felt my pain! – but she reminded me that they also had their gym shoes and that somehow he could probably use these as extra shoes. Gym shoes? I didn’t have that on my list! Somehow I had managed to forget TWO pair of Owen’s shoes.

I felt really sick. Neither pair were a huge deal in reality; but together it felt really big. It is hard enough I think at times for our kids to be so different – to never quite have the right language, be able to keep up in class, etc.- but to go on a trip and perhaps not be able to participate because his mom forgot TWO pairs of his shoes…

We called the school, and I ended up talking to his teacher on the bus. There wasn’t much I could do – they weren’t stopping at a rest stop for quite awhile and it would be hard to time that; it was too far to drive; she didn’t think it would work to send them by Japanese overnight mail. In the end, Yuko talked with the teacher and suggested that somehow Owen could borrow her son’s extra shoes after the river swim (and wear his regular ones in the river). It was decided -somehow they would make it work.

But of course I thought about it off and on all day and just felt sad. At one point in the afternoon I just stopped and prayed. I told God I was just mad at myself. I knew it wasn’t as big a deal as I was making it, but I asked if he would somehow in his graciousness do something before Owen came home that would let me know that it was going to be alright. I couldn’t imagine what, but that is what prayer is all about.

Later that night, my cell phone rang. It was one of my Nozomi friends, a mom from the same class. Her niece was also supposed to go on the trip but had come down with a fever that morning and had to stay home. By that evening, Aya’s fever was gone, and the doctor said she could go on the trip. Aya’s dad was going to leave at 6 am the next morning and drive her to camp. Tomoko said they was happy to take the forgotten shoes – both sets!

Owen’s river hike was at 9 am. Aya and her dad arrived at camp around 8:30. Just in time for Owen to get the shoes. To be able to climb the rocks and play in the beautiful mountain waters and jump, apparently, from a high cliff down into the cool waters below (eek – glad I didn’t know that before). Just in time for God to show me – Owen – and you who are reading this — that God cares about the little things that are important to us. That he wants us to stop and ask for his help. That He is incredibly sweet in his love.

In many ways it wasn’t for Owen, but it was for me. This morning at church I shared this story before the kids went to a different room, because I wanted Owen to hear, and to remember, what God did for him, but especially what God did for his mom.