So here I am, in the shoe department of Wal-mart, trying to find gym shoes that are cute, but also comfortable and practical and preferably under $20... not for me, but for a middle school girl whose favorite color is "sparkle." Between matter-of-fact comments from her like, "Africans can't wear white gym shoes," and "Girls don't wear silver gym shoes," my vision blurs a bit as I try to remember how on earth I got here...
Fatuma called me a few days ago to ask if I could take her to do her back-to-school shopping, and since that time our little shopping spree grew to accommodate the needs of six students, eager but anxious for their first day of school. The Hannahs and I planned a quick run to the dollar store to buy paper, binders, and pencils, and get home before insanity struck. But then, the dollar store didn't carry backpacks or calculators, so we went next door to Wal-mart for a couple more items... which is where insanity inevitably strikes hard.
One of the girls nervously put a couple notebooks in the cart and asked me if I was really ok with helping them buy these supplies. I smiled and assured her that I was, and to get whatever she needed to get for school. Feeling relieved and free, she roamed around picking up this and that... until "this and that" became cute new trendy outfits, at which point I dusted off my English grammar lesson on the difference between "I need," and "I want."
Back to the shoe department... where I justified shoe shopping because of the need for proper gym class footwear. What is not needed is hot pink sparkly designer sneakers. I leave this mini-drama in the capable hands of Tall Hannah, who was raised on the "I'll give you two options" discipline, which is a good balance between parental control and child's choice.
In the mean time, Small Hannah maintains some semblance of order as shepherdess - rounding up our posse and keeping everyone in sight. We check and re-check everyone's lists and find a check-out line, where we wait for twenty minutes... which ended up being a fortunate circumstance, as Rahmo had to go find socks for her brother, Fatuma needed crayons, a backpack needed exchanging, and Hannah convinced Fatuma that a boring grey algebraic calculator would serve her better than the sparkly pink basic elementary one she originally chose.
As the cashier was ringing our purchases up, I was tempted to cringe as the total increased beyond my normal limit... even though I still had last week's lesson echoing in my brain. But the girls chattered and gushed about how thankful they were for our help. "Now I don't have to worry about going back to school! Everything is taken care of!" That was exactly my goal - to relieve as much stress as I possibly could for these awesome kids this weekend. So I didn't watch the prices flash past anymore. I just hugged them and reminded them that I love them. They wanted to thank me somehow, so I told them to just work hard in school and make straight A's this year... which they laughed and agreed was a fair trade. Once we got to the car with all our bags, the girls divided up the spoils and took what they needed... in a beautiful flurry of African-style noise and chaos.
Please pray for these students, as they begin school this Monday! Pray that they will have peace, and not be anxious or stressed. Pray for gracious and patient teachers, kind and caring peers, and manageable work loads. Pray that they will not be discouraged, but will rise to every new challenge and grow and learn and excel in all that they do!