Friday, December 14, 2007

The Shoes Off Her Feet

I work with a woman named Shelecia, who is beautiful inside and out. She is really wonderful colleague - warm, intelligent, kind, helpful, and funny. She is also drop dead gorgeous and a total fashionista, and always looks very glamorous no matter what she is wearing. She has a special weakness for sexy high heeled shoes and boots, and I'm always ogling her.

Today she was kind of scuffling her feet around the office and someone noticed she was wearing some kind of hiking boots, which are not her usual thing. Turns out, they are her daughter's. She wanted to wear comfortable shoes today, she said, but she didn't have her sneakers any more.

"I gave them to a woman on a train," she told us casually. When pressed, she told us the story.

Apparently, one cold, rainy night, she was taking the subway home and was wearing her brand spanking new Nike Air tennis shoes. (Keep in mind this is a single mom, who works in Manhattan as a legal assistant and supports two teenagers. She does not have a whole lot of disposable income.) On this particular evening, she was also taking some personal stuff home from the office, including a pair of high heels that had been under her desk for a while.

A panhandler came through her subway car. This happens a lot - so much that people are pretty much inured to it. But this was a woman, Shelecia said, who shuffled through the car wearing only one shoe, one foot dirty and bare, clearly cold and wet and weeping as if her heart would break, telling a tale of domestic violence and poverty and hunger and suffering, and begging for help. No one responded. Sometimes we are paralyzed with indecision or waiting for someone else to make the first move in these situations... and there are so many panhandlers...

And Shelecia sat there, holding her bag, and thought with sudden determination, "if she comes back through this car, I'm giving her my shoes."

Panhandlers don't often come back though a car. They move from one car to the next on down the line. But this woman happened to come back. So Shelecia stopped her, and took off her new shoes, and gave them to her, with a dollar. And then she took the high heels out of her bag and walked home in the sleet in them. So now she doesn't have any sneakers.

And as so often happens, this one act of generosity spurred others all through the train car to dig through their pockets. As a general rule, I tend not to give money to panhandlers, although I frequently buy them sandwiches or slices of pizza. But if I had been on that car, I'm pretty sure I would have come up with some cash.

I dearly love my colleague Shelecia and have always had tremendous respect for her. And this story just confirmed my high opinion, as if I needed confirmation. Thank you Shelecia, sweetie, on behalf of the universe. You made my day!


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