It was our third shoe store. Sam has always been hard to buy shoes for, but this was pushing my patience. Black Nike with neon. He kept repeating his qualifications for his new shoes like they were a reasonable request. Two shoe stores down and not a black Nike with neon accents to be found. I wanted to scream.
The store was relatively empty considering it was Friday night of tax-free weekend. There was another family trying on shoes as well. Thankfully, God smiled upon us and Sam found two possibilities to try on.
As he was slipping his foot into the first shoe, four empty-handed, teenage boys came into the store and were drawn like a magnet to some Nike Air Jordans on display in front of us. Their excitement over those shoes was evident. The aisle was small, so I bent down to pick up our scattered shoes and shoe boxes strewn across the floor to give them more room.
One of the boys noticed and said, “Sorry, Ma’am.”
“I was just trying to give you more room. We were taking up the whole floor,” I replied.
The boys continued to admire the shoes and one of them decided he wanted to try them on. The store manager walked by and one of the boys asked him, “Do you got these shoes?”
(Granted it wasn’t the best way to phrase what he wanted, but it did not deserve this snarky comeback.)
“Of course I have those shoes. I have them on display, don’t I?” Disdain dripped from his reply.
One of the other teenage boys steps in and asks, “Can I try them on?”
The manager asks for the size and goes to retrieve the shoes. The boy waiting for his shoes has an inch thick wad of cash in his hands. I think to myself, “These are some serious shoe buyers. The shoes they picked out are going to take all that cash.”
The manager returned from the back. He dropped a shoe box off with the other family who was looking for shoes and came back to the boy. In his hand was one shoe. Not a box. One shoe. I look around. We have two boxes of shoes in front of us. The other family has at least five shoe boxes around them. But this kid was given one shoe to try on.
Did I mention these teenagers were black?
My blood started to boil. How rude could this guy be? He is the manager of the store. Shouldn’t he be treating his customers with more respect? The boys want to buy some shoes for school. They have money in their hands. They have no bags to shoplift the shoes away in. There are security cameras all over the ceiling. And they get one shoe? What year is this?
The boy tried the shoe on. His buddies were excited about how cool the shoe looked. The boy worked to get the manager’s attention again. He explained to the manager he wanted the other shoe.
The manager asked, “Are you going to buy them?” More disdain added to the puddle on the floor.
“Yeah, I want the shoes,” the boy answered. He still had the wad of bills in his hand.
The manager turned around and went to retrieve the other shoe. I shook my head in disbelief. If a store employee treated me that way, I would never enter that store again, let alone hand over $150 for a pair of shoes. I looked over at Max and wondered if this was how he would have been treated if I had sent him out to buy his own back-to-school shoes instead of making it a family event? What if Max had come into the store with his buddies? Would he have been given one shoe? Is this standard store protocol for dealing with groups of teenagers? Or was this one man living in fear?
Why are we so scared of what is different from us? Why can’t we turn that fear into inquisitiveness instead? Why can’t we work to understand and bring light into the darkness of the unknown? I don’t understand why we can’t just love each other. Love everyone, not just the people who look like us or think like us. I don’t remember there being qualifiers in Matthew 22:39.
I thought this time had passed in our history.
I was wrong.