Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the church where I work hosts a preschool with about six kids in it.
Today, walking through one of the church halls, I told one of the little boys I liked his jacket. “What about my shoes?” he asked excitedly. “These are my fast running shoes. I can run this fast in them!” He extended his arm, pointed his finger and swiftly drew an arc in the air in front of him. “That’s awesome!” I told him. “It’s fun to run fast, isn’t it?” He nodded and walked away, his attention drawn by some train tracks the other kids were arranging.
Another of the kids, a quiet little blond girl with strong opinions, came up to me: “Look at my shoes. Aren’t they pretty? My mom bought them for me. They’re new.” “I love them.” I said back. She walked back to the group of kids, satisfied.
I returned to my office and sat down to work. I jumped a little when a small, insistent voice from the doorway behind me piped up “I wasn’t done talking.” It was the little boy with the fast shoes who had come to, apparently, have his say. Another of the children, the boy in a set of 3-year-old twins, was behind him, looking at me wide-eyed.
“I’m sorry. What else did you want to tell me?”
“That girl in there — her shoes are cooler than mine.”
“I think that your shoes are very cool for you and her shoes are very cool for her.” I answered back quickly. I wasn’t going to be the source of this kid’s shoe-related self-esteem issues.
He thought about this for a second and then looked down at his velcro-close sneakers. “Yeah,” he said thoughtfully, “Mine have stripes here and here and stripes are fast.”
He stopped, halfway out of my doorway, and considered the other boy’s shoes too. “See? You have stripes right here, right here, right here, right here and right here.” (He was carefully pointing to each of the individual stripes in turn.) “The stripes make you run fast!”
The little boy looked up, delighted. “I can run fast!?” he shouted, and raced back into the other room.
My strategy for the March marathon is now clear to me: buy some new running shoes with stripes on them, yell “I can run fast!” at the starting line and race off towards mile marker 26.2.