I don’t know who you are ….
I don’t know where you came from ….
But THANK YOU!!!!!
These were words spoken by a Navajo P.E. teacher as my mother and I were setting up in the gymnasium at Little Singer Elementary school. We had the sneakers displayed on a corner of the bleachers. We had just fitted five 2nd graders with their new sneakers. They were so excited, they had gone directly over to the P.E. teachers office to show him what they had gotten. They were giggling and wiggling and could not stand still. The teacher engaged them in their silliness and played along in their innocent and pure excitement. After the children went back to class, the teacher walked towards the middle of the gym and announced loudly and sincerely “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know where you came from, but Thank You!”
At Rough Rock, a new school that was brought into the Walk In Beauty Program this season, another school employee watched us from a doorway. After seeing the happy, smiling faces of her students, she slowly approached us to say “I am not a parent. But thank you so much for doing what you do. It is needed.”
Heartfelt and genuine words of thanks were spoken often by the adults at the schools we delivered to during this Fall delivery; the custodian at Many Farms, as he helped us in bringing the many bags of sneakers into the building, and then again as we left, still needing help with 4 large totes of sneakers that we bring to each school as extras, to ensure that we have plenty of options in case the sneakers we have brought specifically for each child do not fit once we arrive; the bus driver/special education teacher at Cottonwood Day School had juice and donuts waiting for us when we arrived, as well as 2 student helpers to bring the children to us in groups by grade level; and parents visiting at Dilkon School as they passed by children trying on new sneakers, stopped to ask who we were and how much we were selling our sneakers for …shocked that the sneakers were free and that we were giving them away, grateful for the quality sneakers. “Do you have any in my size?” one father said with a huge grin.
As pleasing as it is to hear the adults express their appreciation for the sneakers, nothing compares to the excitement of the children as they walk into the room and see the sneakers we have laid out, each with an individual name tag, the smile and the anticipation in their faces and the look of joy on their face when we hand them the sneakers that have their name on the tag.
The children are a bit embarrassed to take of their socks in front of us, but we have also brought them all new socks to go with their new sneakers. As they take off their old socks, we can see that many have holes and are so bare thin that there is not much material between their skin and the shoe. As one boy struggles to pull his new sock on over his hot and sweaty foot, he quietly tells me “These socks are cold”. “Cold?” I say. “Yes, my other ones were very hot” he says. Two 3rd grade girls love the pink camouflage socks that we brought for them.
There are many heartfelt moments throughout the trip. Two of the moments that stand out for both my mother and I are these:
· After we had finished our delivery at Tsaile school (about 30 miles east of Canyon de Chelly), we were done at the schools for the day. We decided to do a little sightseeing. We drove Navajo Rt 13 past Lukachukai, over the pass towards New Mexico. It is a gorgeous road!!! There are miles of red rock, lots of cliffs and mesas, and then into the forest with tall trees, pines, cones and moss. After this scenic side trip, we were driving back through Tsaile as buses were dropping off kids at their long dirt driveways. We saw two sisters that we had given sneakers to hours earlier. They were half running, half skipping down their driveway towards their mother, swinging from their hands were their old sneakers. It is a very sweet snapshot in my mind.
· At Dilkon, a 1st grade girl whispered to my mother, “Thanks for the sneakers. My dad was waiting to get me a new pair when he sells our cow.
It is a very uplifting and yet humbling experience to help others. On this trip we delivered 275 sneakers (and socks) to 10 schools. We drove over 1700 miles. Traveling on the Navajo Reservation is not always simple. Roads are not always marked. Roads are not always paved. Maps do not always accurately depict reservation roads. And the roads often times are scattered with hazards; sheep, cows, horses, even areas where the road has been washed away! It is an adventure. And it is gorgeous!
I am already thinking about the Spring delivery …….