My spouse and I served two years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. In so many ways that experience has impacted how we live our lives today. We went to Nicaragua as a twenty something married couple and we came home a family, forever changed by our experiences. Our daughter, Sarah, was born while we were there.
We lived in a dusty little town in the north, El Jicaro. The spouse worked for El Banco National de Nicaragua and I taught English at the local middle school. Our first week in our new home we met Pedro, a skinny, barefoot kid who lived across the road. He and his even smaller, skinnier little brother hung around our house hoping to do chores and earn some money. We usually had something for Pedro to do. He knew where to buy the best tortillas, or when a cow would be slaughtered, or who had fresh eggs for sale. Soon his mother was doing our laundry and Pedro was our regular errand boy. One day we asked him what he was going to do with his money.
"I'm saving up to buy rolters" he told us.
We frantically searched through our Spanish-English dictionary for "rolter."
"What are rolters?" we asked him.
"They are the best," he said "the best shoes. I want shoes for school."
Several weeks later he showed up at our door with a big grin, wearing his usual short pants with the ragged hem and a thread-bare T-shirt, but this time his outfit was accessorized with new shiny black leather-like oxfords.
"Look," he said "look at my Rolters."
We complemented him excessively on his Rolters. We had never seen a finer pair of shoes, we told him. From then on we rarely saw Pedro without his Rolters. They were his first ever pair of shoes.
I was reminded of Pedro this week when I took my granddaughter to buy shoes. We went from store to store fighting the crowds of back-to-school shoppers until we found shoes that were the perfect fit. She wore them out of the store, a big grin on her face, dancing happily. They are her first ever pair of school shoes; she starts kindergarten tomorrow.
I remembered Pedro and his Rolters and am grateful that my granddaughter will be wearing new shoes to kindergarten. It's a big step for a little girl.