David always sat in a window seat on the school bus that took him home. As usual, he would open the window wide and let the afternoon air caress his face as he recalled the game he had played that day, moment by moment.
«That was amazing, what you did on the field today!» one of his classmates had said.
«I think we have a national level player with us, guys. Get the autographs while you can!» another player threw at David, patting him on the back almost a little too hard.
This was his biggest dream — to play for his country and become like all those great soccer players.
David could almost taste it, the sweet air of victory and pride as he and his team held up the golden championship trophy and smiled while taking pictures.
David constantly rehearsed what he was going to say to the cameras and newspapers at the end of the game. How he rose from humble beginnings. And how he owed everything he had become to his mother.
«Excuse me, can I sit here?»
David was so deep in his reverie that he didn’t realize that one of his classmates had asked permission to sit next to him.
The boy sat down next to David, grabbed his backpack and began to share his dream.
«I want to be the best football player in school. Just like David. I can’t believe I’m sitting next to him!».
The boy was a true fan of David and never missed an opportunity to watch him playing. In his mind, David was everything he wanted to be. He wanted to play like him, have tons of friends like him, and even wear the fancy soccer shoes that David wore.
«These tattered old shoes should do the trick… for now,» the boy thought, hiding his feet under the seat.
Guillermo had always been shy and found it difficult to make friends. One day, the boy finally found the courage to talk to his hero.
«Hi, David! My name is Guillermo. I’m your biggest fan!»
«Oh? Hi, Guillermo! Thanks.»
There was an awkward silence as David began to daydream again.
«I… really like your shoes!» blurted out Guillermo. It was the first thing that came to his mind.
«These? They’re really old, and the soles have already started to peel off. You should see the new shoes I’m getting…» David’s eyes lit up as he thought about the dream pair of shoes he had saved up for.
«Tell me more about them!» said Guillermo, slowly folding his feet under the seat. He didn’t want David to see how ugly and tattered his own shoes were.
«Well, they are perfect! They’re neon orange, and they have unbeatable traction…»
David had been collecting money for seven months to buy the pair of shoes he wanted. This was the first time the 12-year-old wanted to buy something for himself. And he wanted to do it without burdening his mother. Because, he knows how hard his mother works, struggling to provide for him and his two younger twin sisters.
«Mom, you don’t have to contribute. Tracy and Katie will be celebrating their birthdays soon, and you need to save up to throw a party, remember?»
David had saved enough money. And he did it with a small newspaper delivery every morning and the lemonade sale he made during the last vacation. That is, until the day his piggy bank was full and he finally had enough to bring home the shoes of his dreams.
That day, on the bus ride home from school, he couldn’t stop talking about it with Guillermo.
«Guillermo! I did it! Tonight, after my homework, I’m going to go straight to the store and buy the best shoes in town. In fact, I’ll pick you up, and you can come with me to the store. It’s going to be the best feeling in the world!»
Guillermo felt a real thrill for his idol. That’s when the bus suddenly hit a pothole and one of Guillermo’s shoes fell to the bus floor.
David was surprised when he saw the worn and blackened shoe. It was a pair of thin, poor quality summer shoes. There were holes in the sole, the canvas was coming off and there was no trace of laces.
Guillermo dropped the other shoe, because he was ashamed.
David had tears in his eyes as he looked at his friend, hiding his face in his palms, sobbing softly but uncontrollably. The two boys didn’t know what to say to each other for the rest of the ride.
«Be ready for 5 o’clock!», David finally told Guillermo, referring to their plan for the evening to visit the store. There was no way David was going to the store alone. Not after what he had seen.
«Ah, David! Are you here to pick up your new pair of soccer shoes? I have them packed and ready right here,» the store owner said.
«Hold on, sir. Could you show me a pair of these shoes in a smaller size?», David said, pointing to a pair of comfortable boots.
The store owner, Mr. Manning, is confused.
«But the ones I packed are exactly your size, David.»
«Not for me, for my friend here,» David replied.
Guillermo couldn’t believe what he had heard. He couldn’t let David do that.
«No, David, I don’t need…»
David squeezed Guillermo’s hand and blinked gently to calm him down.
«I’ll take care of it, Guillermo. You always call me your hero. Let me try to be one for you.»
Mr. Manning heard this exchange between the boys and was touched. He knew exactly what he had to do.
«Woah, this one looks great on you, my friend. And it’s the best we have in this store.»
David was finally satisfied with the pair of boots he had bought for his friend. Guillermo’s shame had now turned into a feeling of overwhelm, gratitude and pure joy for this unexpected gift.
As the boys left the store and rode away on their bikes, Mr. Manning signaled to his staff.
«Look, there’s something we need to do right now…»
«David! There’s someone at the door for you! He came in with a truck, actually.» David’s mother couldn’t figure out what was going on either
David rushed to the door and found a familiar person there. It was Mr. Manning, the owner of the shoe store.
«Why did you come here?» the boy asked.
«I heard you talking to your friend at the store, David. I know what you did,» the man replied.
«I know how badly you wanted those spiked shoes, and I saw you selling lemonade and delivering newspapers. And today, I saw you give up all those desires, just so you could help a friend who was more in need than you.»
David lowered his head in shyness, catching a glimpse of his mother’s proud look out of the corner of his eye.
«And I think that kind of kindness and friendship should be rewarded in this day and age. So go ahead! Get in the back of that truck and pick up as many pairs of shoes as you want. For you, your mom, and your sisters… Don’t worry about the money, it’s on me.»
David hesitated, looking at his mother for approval. As soon as she nodded, he rushed to the truck, his eyes bright with excitement.
«Hurry up, we still have to go to your friend’s house. There are free shoes for him and his family too!»