Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The clothing lady with the one shoe story.

     As many of you know, I get to volunteer some time with my local Boy Scout Troop in Hall.  I say "get to" because this relationship always gives more back to me than I put into it.  This is a perfect example of that, as this story came to me a few weeks before Christmas, one year, and I would have never heard it, if not for helping the Scouts with an annual event.

     The tradition started well before my involvement with the Troop, but I will say I've been proud to help keep it going for the last 8 years or so.  A few weeks before Christmas each year, the Scouts of Troop 68 in Hall NY, distribute fruit baskets to the aged, unemployed, needy, infirm, and to the new residents of our little hamlet.  They spend the monetary equivalent of 1-2 fundraisers on this project (Ever wonder what we did with the money raised selling overpriced popcorn or spaghetti dinner tickets?) and they go out and purchase 15 cases
of fruit from a local produce wholesaler, and spend a Saturday morning, sorting, packing and distributing boxes of fruit around to the people on our "list".  We poll our neighbors and the local postmaster as to who might be in need that particular year, so the "list" is ever changing.  A small sign goes up in the local diner, hardware store, and in the Post Office, so we try and insure that we capture all who are in need. Most years we distribute 40 boxes, complete with fruit, candy canes, and a card signed by all the Scouts, wishing them well during the Holidays.   It's the finest thing we do as a Troop, and I've heard from the recipients for so many years, that it speaks volumes about the caliber of the boys in the Troop and how much this gesture means to those recipients.  The thank you cards we get back some years almost make you cry, but one has always stood out amongst the others, and it was the one from a woman known simply as "The Clothing Lady".

     The "Clothing Lady's" card always came with a scripture verse attached, or an additional inspirational card inside of hers.  I suspect that she gives money to religious organizations and receives many of these back and keeps them.  I envision her going through her piles of them to find one that is apropos for the Troop, and
Not the actual Clothing Lady, but close.
each year she does.  I had enjoyed reading them for many years, before I actually got to deliver my first fruit box to her, and it took a few years of doing that before I got to meet her.  She has a modest house, close to the church where we donate the remaining boxes each year, and it has a heated foyer prior to going into the house.  For a few years, we'd go and ring the doorbell, and knock, but no one ever answered, so we'd leave the box in the foyer, and the only evidence of the receipt of it was the thank you card that would come back a week or so later.  She appeared on the distribution list with her name (It's one of those great older people names that no on uses anymore)  but also with a description in parenthesis that read,  (The Clothing Lady).  My curiosity about the meaning of her nickname went unanswered until just 2 years ago, when I finally found her at home when we delivered.  My son Nolan and I had followed the usual procedure and the door went unanswered but while we were turning to leave, we both heard a commercial come onto the TV inside (Ever wonder why commercials are so loud?, Mysterious ways....)  We peered in and could see just the top of the Clothing Lady's head in a armchair facing the TV.  We knocked louder a few times, but it wasn't until we actually opened the inner door, and yelled, that she became aware of our presence.  She likely was home all the other years too, but had never heard us.  She invited us in, and in the 20 minutes we shared together that morning, she told us the story of the one shoe.

     Before I could even ask my burning question about why she was listed as "The Clothing Lady", she started to tell us about her late husband.  "We had a mission" she said, "and it was to collect clothing and ship
Her mission looks like my son's bedroom on laundry day
it overseas to those who needed it".  She went on to tell us that they had both heard the call, and started collecting old clothes and shoes.  When they would get enough to fill a container or two, she would arrange transportation to the recipient country that had the most dire need at that time.  She had a contact that would visit her and help out when the time got close, and he also went overseas frequently to see that the clothes were being distributed properly.  Part of their job was to go through the donations, piece by piece, and to sort out the stuff that was not usable. They chuckled over some of the stuff that people donated, and you never knew what you might come across in a pile of donated items, like the time her husband found a single shoe.
     There, nestled among T-shirts with outdated slogans on them (Where's the Beef, I Survived Skylab, etc) was an almost brand new running shoe.  Her husband spent the rest of the afternoon searching the pile for it's mate, but it just wasn't in there, so at the end of the day, he placed the single shoe atop the refuse pile. The Clothing Lady passed it and then went back
I wonder who is wearing this now?
and urged her husband to include it in the shipment.  His response was something akin to "What the hell would anybody do with one running shoe?", but he was a religious man, so I am paraphrasing.  It went on the pile to go overseas. Years later the work got too physically taxing on the couple so they prepared to send their last container overseas.  When it was finished, the contact came, but this time he brought some pictures with him of the recipients of their charity, all dressed in the clothing they had sent.  They laughed as they flipped through the pictures, recalling a lot of the items that they were seeing, but one stopped them dead in their tracks.  It was a picture of a man, smiling a toothless smile, standing with a cane and on his remaining leg, was the single running shoe that they had sent a few years before.  The contact explained that he had lost his leg to a mine, and had been absolutely thrilled to receive the shoe, and it had fit perfectly.  I suspect, that if the couple had ever had any doubts as to the value of their mission, they were taken away immediately after seeing that photo. 

     Looking for a moral in this one might be easy.  I suspect when my wife reads this one, she'll suggest "Always listen to your wife, cuz they know better".  I could suggest back "You never know when the inept things I do are the Lord's work" and it could go on all day.  Let's leave you with this thought, "What do you have that you no longer value, that could become so invaluable to those in need?"  If one shoe can make that big of an impact, what could your donation do?  I hear that the Scout Troop is planning on doing a clothing drive this year, let me know if you want to participate, single shoes will be accepted.  
Shoe still needed


Beeg said...

Scripture tells us that is you have 2 coats, you should give one away. I think it was St. Basil that said..(paraphrasing here..) The coat you have hanging in your closet does not belong to you..it belongs to one who does not own a coat. The shoes you do not wear do not belong to you, but belong to one who is barefoot. The acts of charity that you do not perform are the injustices you commit.
Great Story!

cdyarger said...

Well, it is true - the WIFE does usually know best!! In this case, though, I will defer to Beeg!! I agree - God certainly works in mysterious ways through us! I have always loved this story. Wish you could see how happy and full of life the Boy Scouts are when filling and delivering these boxes. It always reminds me that THIS is why we keep Scouting in our family - it is a gift to us as well as others. Happy Holidays to all!

Daphne Mays said...

Beeg said it so well! It's not that often that we get to see the results of what we've done but every once in a while we catch a glimpse that renews our energy! Beautiful story!

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