My Daddy’s Shoes by Terry Brown
Daddy was already dressed with his leather bible in his hand when my brothers and I woke around 8:30.
Church clothes were shirt, a tie and a pair of black “Payless,” shoes. Perhaps I would own a pair of “church shoes” like daddy when I get older as opposed to the “multipurpose” shoes I wore then. Our shoes were worn for picture day, eating out or any school event but my dad’s shoes were solely for the purpose of church. Come to think about it, I always admired how he dressed for church. My pants were a little stiff and I usually wore them to school but his pants, well, his pants were, “Church pants”. In fact, he owned several pair of them. The only pair of “Church pants” I owned, was part of my Easter suit and I only wore them on special occasions. I admire his church clothes but none more than his brown pants because they were soft. I know because on numerous occasions, I tried them on and pretended I was him or someone else important. I enjoyed them for a few minutes before he came into the room and demanded I remove them. I didn’t have enough time to realize that I walked on half of the pants because my legs were too small. His outfit was complimented by his shiny leather shoes. Perhaps, I’ll dress like him and my son would want to dress like me.
As we made our way, I noticed daddy smiling. When I asked him about it, he responded, “Can yo daddy I smile for no reason?” I thought everyone needs a reason to smile but I didn’t dare ask.
We stopped at the corner store to buy some gum. My brothers both bought the yellow pack of gum, my dad bought the blue pack of gum and I followed suit with him. Once we left the store, daddy gave two dollars and explained that one is for tithes and the other was for offerings.
I asked what “ties” meant. He laughed and corrected me, “tithes” and proceeded to explain how God gave us everything and all he ask for is 10% back and a little offering to the church you attend to get God’s word. He called it stewardship.
As I stared our shoes again, not only was his shoes nice and shiny but they were much larger than my shoes. I’d imagine no one shoes can be as big as my father’s shoes but he always insists that God shoes’ were bigger. “God is the father of everyone and everything and he is bigger and stronger than everyone.” That morning, I thought about God’s shoes. If his shoes were larger than my dad’s shoes then my shoes were really small.
I never understood the purpose of church. If God was everywhere, then why doesn’t everyone go to the same church? My dad said I would understand once I got older. Maybe I would but definitely had not then. Maybe daddy didn’t either.
Church, at least the one we attended, was astonishingly structured. Nothing ever changes except the sermons. Three hours of a routine to which I could set my clock. I thought that conducting service was easy, almost like reruns. Now, back on it, I imagine that keeping everything on such a meticulous schedule proved to be very difficult. Nevertheless, we arrived to church early enough to attend Sunday school.
Daddy was in a class by himself, my brothers were in the same class and I attended Sunday school with the first and second graders. The majority of the kids in that class were 5 and 6 years old. At 7 years old, I wondered why I wasn’t placed with the older kids. The class was no bigger than daddy apartment and the chairs were placed in a circle. I moved my favorite chair to my favorite spot of the semicircle.
I wanted a few moments of shut eye before everyone arrived.
As I dozed off, Sister Daniel walked smiling and said, “Good morning.”
I shyly replied, “Good morning.”
“A little sleepy this morning?”
“Well, let the spirit in you and shake off that tiredness, ya hear?”
“Yes maam.” I replied.
“You know the younger kids in here look up to you. You’re the oldest one.”
“Oh?” She chuckled, “Boy, that’s a good thing. Let God use you to be a leader for his word.
“A leader?” I responded
“Oh, yeah, I know you are shy but a leader none the less.” I never thought of myself as a leader. That morning, we continued where she left off last week with the story of Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery. It was funny how even his oldest brothers, were like mine. Given half a chance, my own brothers would probably sell me for a discounted price. I laughed on the inside. She discussed how Joseph was able to interpret dreams. One of his interpretations bothered me because he predicted someone’s death. I imagined God was careful who’d he gave those gifts to because in the wrongs hands, those powers can be very damaging. During class I asked questions, answered a few she asked and some the other classmates asked.
After Sunday school my brothers, father and I met up and sat together in the middle rows. The reverend gave a sermon about loving everyone, even our enemies. I was conflicted because if someone was my enemy, how am I supposed to love them. This was a hard concept to grasp. Why love? Why not disregard or contempt? The preacher stood there in the pew in his gray church suit telling us to love our enemies and I wondered how big his shoes were. He spoke to the congregation with such conviction and certainty. I imagined, his shoes were larger than mine and my dad’s combined because he knew God’s words well.
Meanwhile, most of the younger children in my Sunday school class were sleep and the older kids, including my older brothers, lost interest and started off into space or took occasional bathroom breaks. However, daddy and the other adults listened attentively to the reverend’s word. When the preacher said, “Amen.” They all shouted. For what, because he said love our enemy? Did my father, a man with large feet, really feel that way or was he going along with everyone else? I was so lost in thought I didn’t see the collection plate until it was in my lap. Then my daddy said, “Put 1 dollar inside.”
“Oh.” I responded and dug into my pocket and threw one of the crumpled dollars into the pan. My mind began to drift back. Why love someone who is evil? I thought to myself. After a few more minutes, daddy tugged on my hand. It was time for the adjourning prayer. I don’t remember the entire prayer but I do remember some, “Dear Heavenly father, guide us as we go back out into the world. Allow us to have clarity in your word, use your children who understand to give clarity to your children who don’t understand.”
Once the reverend released the congregation, everyone exited. My brothers stretched and I held on to daddy’s hand. Once outside he asked all three of us about Sunday service, my older brothers exclaimed that church was boring. Daddy laughed and said, “Church is not supposed to be fun.” He looked at me and asked “What about you?”
This was my chance to ask. “Daddy, why does God wants us to love evil people?”
My brother laughed, I felt a little ashamed for a moment but my dad looked down and smiled, “It is not our place to determine who is evil and who is not evil. Jesus says that no sin is worse than the other.”
“Oh.” I said softly.
“And while you are passing judgment on someone else. Someone else could be calling you evil. God want us to love our enemies because we are all his children.”
“Ok.” I said looking down at our shoes and began to compare the two again. My brothers’ shoes weren’t much larger than my own. “Daddy, do your feet grow when you learn something about God?”
He laughed out and responded, “Well, no your feet will get to the size they will get but the more you learn about God, the more you grow in the eyes of Christ.”
“Well, I want to learn as much as you do.”
“I want you to learn more than I ever will know.”
“Oh.” I said. I pondered about Sunday service and Sunday school. The only way I knew to learn about God’s word was to ask questions and every time my dad or Sister Daniels answered. When Sister Daniel spoke of my leadership, did she mean Sunday school or did God have sometime planned for me. My dad wanted me to learn more than he him. As I compared our shoes, mine didn’t seem so small.
Copyright © 2011 Terry Brown
Terry Brown is a writer from the Twin Cities. He is a graduate from Normandale Community College and is an English major at the University of Minnesota. Brown is working on his novel. His writing credits include the Paper Lantern.
posted by Paragon Dream
Tags: black, church clothes, church shoes, class, dad, daddy, doesn, event, everyone, everything, few minutes, god, gum, half, leather, leather bible, leather shoes, legs, maam, none, offerings, pack, pair, Payless, payless shoes, reason, shiny leather, shirt, smile, someone, special occasions, stewardship, store, Terry Brown, tie, ties, time, tithes, two dollars
Filed under: Fiction