Stocking Feet Faith

Stocking Feet Faith

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Stocking Feet Faith

Give, and it will be given to you.

Luke 6:38

After twenty years of driving buses for the county transit system, John thought he’d seen everything. But something happened one cold December day in the early 1980s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that changed all that.

John was worrying about his problems just like the next guy. Wondering how he was going to pay the December gas bill. Wondering if he’d be able to buy any Christmas presents that year. Wondering if he was ever going to get ahead of the game.

On that cold, dreary gray-sky day before Christmas, the temperature was ten degrees and it was trying to snow. Every time John opened the bus door, a blast of cold air slapped him in the face.

“Lousy time of year,” John grumbled. “Just plain lousy.”

As usual, around 3 PM, John was driving his bus down Wisconsin Avenue. At Marquette Prep School, a private boy’s high school, he picked up the usual group of students. It seemed to John that as Christmas drew closer, the high school boys grew louder and rowdier.

Pushing and shoving, they stumbled to the back of the bus. “Rich kids,” John mumbled disgustedly to himself. Most of the boys from the prep school lived in the ritzier suburbs and would be transferring off his bus in a mile or so.

A few stops later, John pulled up in front of the Milwaukee County Medical Complex grounds where a woman was waiting in the bus shelter.

She looked to be about forty years old and pregnant, her dingy gray coat tattered from collar to hem. When she pulled herself up the steps of the bus, John noticed she was wearing only socks, no shoes.

“Good Lord, woman, where are your shoes?” he blurted out without thinking. “It’s too cold to be out without shoes! Get on in here and off that cold sidewalk!”

The woman struggled up the steps, pulling her gray buttonless coat around her protruding belly. “Never mind my shoes. This bus goin’ downtown?”

Still staring at her feet, John answered, “Well, eventually we’ll get back downtown. Have to head west first, then we’ll turn around.”

“I don’t mind the extra ride, long as I can get warm. Lordy, it’s cold out there. Wind must be comin’ off the lake!” she sighed as she handed John her money and sat down on the front seat.

The high school kids in the back started in. “Hey, lady, nice coat!”

“That a Saks Fifth Avenue special?”

“Doesn’t she know we don’t serve patrons without shoes?”

John felt like strangling every one of those kids. To distract the woman from their remarks, he continued his conversation, “Yup, it’s a rough time of year all right.”

The woman sat up straight in her seat and smoothed the wrinkles in her coat. “Sure is. I got eight kids. Had enough money this year to buy shoes for every one of ’em, but that was it. I got some slippers at home, but I didn’t want to get ’em all wet in case it snowed.”

John kept the conversation going. “Yep. It ain’t easy with Christmas and all. Money’s scarce. And if this weather doesn’t warm up, I’m wonderin’ if I’ll have enough to pay the gas bill.”

“Mister, you just be glad you got a place to live and a job. The good Lord will take care of you. Always has for me.”

John couldn’t believe that a woman who didn’t have any shoes was telling him to stop worrying.

Before long, the bus was at the end of the line, time for the kids to get off and transfer to other buses that would take them to their comfortable suburban homes.

As the boys filed off, one young student named Frank, a freshman who had been sitting just a few seats behind the woman in the gray tattered coat, stopped in front of her and handed her his new leather sport shoes, saying, “Here, lady, you take these. You need ’em more than I do.”

And with that, Frank, a fourteen-year-old kid, walked off the bus and into the ten degree evening in his stocking feet.

The busy Christmas season that year turned out better for John than all the other years and months put together.

And it wasn’t just because when the woman tried on the shoes she let out a whoop and a holler. “Why, they fit perfect! Can you believe that? Perfect. Nice and warm, too. Bless the Lord. Mister, I told you not to worry ‘bout nothin’. Don’t you see? The Lord always provides. Always.”

On a bus heading west, John’s faith in God and in mankind was completely restored on that cold gray day in Milwaukee by a woman wearing a very expensive pair of sport shoes.

Patricia Lorenz

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