Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching Evie to Give Her Socks to the Janitor

Schools in Poland are set up differently than those in America. Rather than hanging your coat on a rack in your classroom, when you first enter the school there is an area with a group of cages, one for each class, in which you leave your coat. You also leave your shoes there.

Every day the kids change into "school shoes". They take this separate pair of shoes, which is usually canvas or some other light type of shoe, in a special bag (which can be bought to match your backpack), change near their class' "cloakroom" and leave their regular shoes in the bag, which they hang by their coat.

The janitor lady locks up the cages after the bell rings and opens it again before school lets out. (this means that if your kids are late they may have to run around looking for the janitor to have her open their door) Different classes let out at different times, and sometimes classes take trips outside and have to change shoes and put on coats etc. so occasionally the cages are open during classes.

This, of course, is all very strange to me. It's a pain in the neck in many ways. Of course it's a good idea in some respects. I mean, imagine walking down the hall at school and not going through all the slush people bring in during the winter. The problem is, it only takes one or two parents or teachers to walk down the hall in wet shoes and then all the kids' clean school shoes are muddy, too.

But whatever. That's how they do it here and I stopped complaining about it after Evie's second year in school (see how good I am, only complaining for two years about something I can't change!?!)

There is, however, another problem. Stuff gets stolen and lost very easily. David has "lost" a couple of nice sweaters, a pair of good new gloves and a pair of (cheap but new) school shoes over the course of 2 1/2 years. Ewelina? Well, she's "lost" a number of items of clothing and two pairs of shoes. Good shoes. Good, new shoes.

Sorry about this tangent, but I can't really stand girls' shoes these days. They are ugly, most of them. And the ugliest ones of all are those that I'm sure I would have died to have when I was Evie's age. Fashion and it's cycles.

Anyway, last year we bought Evie this (ugly) pair of shoes that she was just in love with. They were the most expensive pair we've ever bought her (we're cheap though, so they weren't that expensive). She wore them for a couple of weeks and then they disappeared. From the cloakroom. Into thin air.

She was somewhat devastated. It was cold enough that we just had her wear her winter boots, but when spring came again we finally got her a replacement pair. Shiny red low-tops that she also loved.

A week or two later and the red shoes disappeared, too. Nothing we have ever lost has ended up in the lost-and-found. Thin air, I tell you.

Yesterday after school Evie called Greg (who was getting ready to go pick her up; we don't rush and the kids sometimes wait an hour or so for us (him) to come. Again, every class has a different schedule so there are always some classes still going on and it's very normal for other kids to just be hanging around)

This time Evie didn't want to wait. She told Greg to come as fast as he could. Why? Because she had just seen the janitor wearing her old shoes (the first pair that went missing)!


Those were not a style of shoes a forty something cleaning lady would wear. Unless. . .

So, yeah.

Ev and her friend were looking at the shoes and whispering. When the janitor noticed them staring she left right away. A little later they saw her again and she was wearing the slippers she usually wears around the school.

What a range of emotions I feel about this. The shock and upset that I felt initially wore off pretty early on and is now mostly covered by pity and. . . regret? I just feel bad for her.

I sort of would like to approach the lady. Maybe I would say she could keep the shoes (obviously), but could we please have back the leg warmers that were in the bag with them, which Ewelina's aunt knitted specially for her?

Greg is planning on talking to the principal. I definitely understand this. They really shouldn't have a thief working on grounds. Especially not one with keys.

But I can't help thinking that maybe talking to her would be enough. I don't know. Maybe not, if she has a lucrative stall in the outside market where she sells like-new children's shoes and winter clothing.

Basically when it comes to the "justice" part of the whole thing I'm a little torn (let her keep taking other children's things? Probably not a good idea), but there is no question about the mercy aspect.

Evie was very upset when she got back from school. She really misses her shoes. She is very angry with the janitor. I talked to her about how understandable that is. Then I asked if she knows what Jesus said we should do in such situations. She didn't remember.

Well, it turns out he gave quite a similar example. I quoted that "if any man . . . take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."

I suggested Evie take a pair of socks to school and offer it to the janitor.

She didn't think this was funny. Or poignant. Or anything other than a little annoying. But I think she's coming around. Sometimes forgiveness takes a little time.


Liz said...

Oh my goodness. Well, at least you guys know now, how things could be disappearing into thin air from a locked cage. Darn. It makes you imagine how little the janitor is probably making and yet you do have to wonder about whether she sells stuff 'near new' somewhere, too. Hmmm. Let us know if Evie decides to offer her some socks and how the conversation with the principle goes. I am very curious.

Oh, and maybe if you bought Evie shoes that were two sizes too small the janitor wouldn't want them anymore.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is a great post, Lisa. I would have had all the reactions that you had, and felt much the same way. That quote you used with Evie was so poignant though, and you (or Jesus) make a really good point that totally goes in the face of how we rightfully feel inclined to react. I'm curious to see how it plays out, but I think you did an awesome job of turning it into a teaching moment.

charrette said...

Totally surreal. I love that you told her to give her her socks also! And that she wasn't amused. :)
I think I'd be tempted to send Evie to school in a pair of Sensible Shoes -- sturdy, leather, 40-year-old work shoes -- and negotiate a swap!

p.s. When we were in California our kids went to a private European (Waldorf) school (not as snooty as it sounds, I promise!) and yes, they had a separate pair of canvas school shoes they changed into as soon as they got to the classroom. I have to admit I got used to the idea eventually. I tried to compare it to the temple -- that changing our shoes somehow meant treading more lightly and changing our behavior. :)

Alison Wonderland said...

I love your last line there.
As far as the right thing to do, I have no idea. Some people steal because they need and others steal because they can.
But I think you're right about the socks.

Barbaloot said...

What a frustrating thing! I understand the need to follow Christ's example, but I can only imagine how awful it would feel as a young girl, to see a grown up wearing your shoes! Young kids shouldn't have to face the realization so soon that they're not surrounded by honest people.

Carolyn V. said...

I literally gasped when you said it was the janitor. That would be so upsetting for me. But what a great lesson you are teaching your daughter.

Lara said...

You are such a good mother. I will be interested to know what happens if your husband speaks to the principal. Poor Evie. :(

L.T. Elliot said...

That's sad that it ended up being the janitor but what a beautiful lesson you taught your daughter. This is hard one. Where does mercy and justice come in? *hugs* Wishing you the best.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Why is it so stinkin' hard to be like Jesus? You have a much better attitude about it than I would.

Kazzy said...

Oh man... that would be tough. Yeah, if a woman takes your shoes, give to her your socks also.

Annette Lyon said...

First off--whoa! New look! I like the red. :)

Second, I somehow don't think the cloak scripture was referring to this kind of situation. Yeah, report the janitor. Sad that it's even an issue.

Ola Zan said...

THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN IN AMERICA!!! Not kidding. What a wonderful lesson. I better prepare for those times when the only good answer comes from the Scriptures. Wow, that was exactly the right scripture for this kind of situation, I think. Good job!

Lindsay said...

Crazy! How sad and disappointing for your little one to see an adult she trusts being dishonest. I REALLY REALLY hope you get her leg warmers back. Really.

AndyPandyJackaDandy said...

Wow. I wouldn't have even thought to bring Jesus into it before I knew for sure that it was a case of need and not greed. I probably would have stormed the school. Thanks for reminding me to step back and think first...AND, I think you should totally report her and get Evie's things back. I seriously doubt that the janitor is in "need" of several articles from several students...

Melissa Bastow said...

You're much more amazing than me. Even though I'm practically a saint(just go with it) I would probably have made a huge scene and demanded the shoes back and made the janitor lose her job. It wouldn't have occurred to me until much much later, if at all, that she took stuff because she didn't have shoes of her own. And I probably would never have suggested socks. Yup, you're amazing.

Heather said...

Wow, what an experience. I can't wait to find out what happens next with Greg talking to the principal and if Evie gives her some socks.

Anne said...

WOW! Mercy has nothing to do with allowing illegal acts to go unnoticed! WOW! You know it's not just happening to her and David!

Kimberly said...

Oh this is beautiful. What a beautiful big heart you have, Lisa, to not let indignation overwhelm your better feelings. I love that you're teaching Evie that.

Moody said...

Wow, what a strange system! And the janitor-lady---don't even know what to say! Love the socks though. She should definitely do that!