I knew it wouldn’t be an extravagant gift. After all, I’d only sent $20. And even in Bolivia, $20 doesn’t go very far. But still, I had envisioned something fun.
A soccer ball to kick around in the dusty lot — the lot where he stands serious, arms by his side in the photograph that hangs on our fridge.
A box of 64 Crayolas, vibrant points row upon row, and a stack of crisp, unblemished coloring books.
A set of shiny Matchbox cars, primary colors popping bright against the dirt.
A brand-new, hard-cover book, Thomas the Tank Engine or Elmo in Spanish.
I’d pictured something that would light a smile on that somber face. A gift that would spark joy in those piercing brown eyes.
“Thank you very much for the birthday money,” his mother wrote in Spanish on Compassion letterhead a few weeks later. “I used it to buy Pedro a new pair of shoes.”
She bought him shoes for his fifth birthday.
I held her letter in my hand, reading her short note once, then twice, swallowing shame as I imagined my own children’s reaction to a single birthday gift, a gift of shoes. It would be unthinkable, of course. My children ask for iPods and scooters, Minecraft and Mario Bros. Shoes aren’t given as birthday gifts in our house. Shoes are a given.
I looked again at Pedro’s photograph on our refrigerator. Orange tee-shirt tucked into rumpled beige pants. Plastic pink crocks on his feet.
Plastic pink crocks on his feet.
Pedro’s mother’s bought him shoes for his fifth birthday. A soccer ball would have been fun. Sixty-four crayons and a stack of new coloring books would have been nice. But Pedro needed shoes.