You know that Christmas song, “Sir, I Want To Buy These Shoes?” Well, I actually despise that song, because really, who does that guy think he is, assuming God made this poor kid’s mom die just so he could have a revelation about the meaning of Christmas in the grocery store? I mean, come on.
But yesterday, while doing my grocery shopping with my two-year-old daughter Mya, I witnessed a real-life version of this song.
I whipped into the aisle with the shortest line and happened behind a dad with his two young daughters, one about five, the other about eight or nine.
The older one was clutching a little worn wallet full of crumpled dollar bills and coins and anxiously watching over a pair of furry white boots she had lovingly placed on the conveyor belt. Every fibre of her being was radiating love and anxiety towards those boots–she was literally quivering just standing there.
I smiled at her. “Those are really cute boots!” I said. “Don’t you like those, Mya?”
Mya nodded solemnly, studying the little girl as she blushed and turned away.
As the dad wrapped his order up, (because he had placed the divider stick in between his stuff and his daughter’s boots, don’tyaknow) he counted over his daughter’s money.
Instantly, the mood shifted.
“You.do.not.have.enough,” he hissed through gritted teeth. “You only have $21!” he snapped at her.
Her thin little shoulder slumped. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she whispered.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you don’t have enough.”
He snatched the money out of her hands as she gave a slight protest. She wanted to hand the clerk her money for the boots. You know how that is, right? My four-year old beams with pride when I let her buy her own pack of gum, handing over those coins like she is buying happiness. I wanted to shout at him–she wants to pay, you idiot!
“No, you don’t have enough, so I’m taking this money,” he growled to her, as he pulled a flash of twenties out of his wallet. “And I’m only putting $3 in, you hear? Only $3.”
She nodded silently, afraid to breathe before he would change his mind, every hope pinned on those hideous, perfect pre-teen boots.
His eye caught the price tag as the boots shifted towards the register. Suddenly, he snatched them up, hurtling them towards her as he shook them in her face like an insult.
“These are $29!! You got it wrong! How could you get it wrong?! These aren’t $24, these are $30 boots!!”
Disgusted, he pitched the boots to the corner, piled up next to where they display those stale, chocolate-covered peanuts and batteries, hoping you will buy some last-minute purchases.
Every ounce of me wanted to cry out for this little girl, who stayed silent through this exchange. That’s the part that got to me the most–she didn’t even protest, not once, her father’s flinging boot rant, as if she was used to a lifetime of disappointments from this man. But how could I? What if this was some lesson from her parents in saving up money? Obviously, her dad had money to pay for the boots–I had seen the twenties. I didn’t want to judge a situation at first glance. Who knows what was really going on? But what if they could really use some help? What if I could be a Christmas angel..
The clerk interrupted my pleading reverie to myself.
“Sir, did you decide not to get the boots?” she asked, leaning slightly over the register to get his attention.
Turning with a start, his angry demeanor disappeared.
“Oh, yes,” he said sweetly, smiling at both of us like we were in this together. “She thought she had enough, but she didn’t. They were $29 and she only had $24,” he explained, steering his daughters by the shoulders out of the aisle and shaking his head. “She had it wrong.”
The clerk and I exchanged a look. “Oh,” she said.
My stomach turned and twisted through this whole exchange. I wanted to cry. I really, really wanted to buy those shoes for his daughter, please.
But more than that, I wanted this dad to put a smile on his daughter’s face.
Because it’s not about the money or the gifts or the last-minute stresses of the holidays.
It’s about remembering kindness and love.
Even in someplace as simple as the grocery store line.