A poor boy whining to his mother about his leaking boots learns the meaning of true happiness after meeting his new classmate who is in a wheelchair.
Eric was a nine-year-old boy who lived with his single mother Stacey and sister Lily. Stacey worked as a waitress and didn’t earn much, so they sometimes lived paycheck to paycheck.
Being in a hand-to-mouth condition, they couldn’t always afford groceries and sometimes lived on windows for days. Eric felt terrible for their situation, but worse for himself, especially at school.
Eric’s leather boots were worn, with most of the material peeling. Worse, the shoes didn’t protect his feet from the rain and his socks got soaked as water seeped through the holes. Stacey had tried to plug the holes with the leather from an old wallet, but to no avail.
Eric’s classmates teased and mocked him for wearing his filthy, leaky boots to school every day. He couldn’t afford expensive sneakers like his peers, and he was laughed at for them.
Appreciate the things you have and be grateful.
“I’ll give you my old sneakers for free, Eric,” the bully would laugh at him. “All I need is someone to carry my school bag for me every day. I can give you some of my pocket money… After all, you and your mother are so poor!”
All the kids laughed with him to laugh at Eric, and Eric felt very hurt. On the way home he always cried and hated his boots.
One day Eric came back from school and complained to Stacey about his outdated boots. He told her he needed new shoes. He began to sob and stamp his feet. “Can we please buy them, Mom? Please, please, please?”
Stacey was eating and was very tired. She got irritated and yelled at Eric. “How many times have I told you not to bother me while I’m cooking, Eric? Go to your room.’
“I hate my boots, Mom! They leaked in the rain again today. Why can’t you give me new shoes? Please, Mom!”
“Because I spent our last savings on your sister’s meds! She’s sick, Eric, you know that. You must act like a responsible big brother. Stop having tantrums!’ she told him irritably, and Eric’s eyes widened.
“I HATE YOU!” he screamed. “You only care about Lily! You do not love me!’
Stacey sighed and realized she was too loud. “I’m sorry, Eric. Look, the thing is…’
‘No, Mom! I don’t want to listen to anything! I hate you!’ he cried and ran to his room.
After preparing dinner, Stacey went to his room with his plate and comforted him.
“I’m sorry, Eric,” she whispered as she hugged him. “We’re going through a rough patch, honey, but I swear I’ll get you new shoes ASAP. You see, Eric, it matters a lot if we’re happy in hard times. Because hard times don’t last a long time , but tough people do… As for the boots, I’ll take them to a cobbler and have them repaired. I’m sure they’ll last longer.”
But Eric refused to listen to her. “You’ve had it fixed so many times, Mom! You can spend money on Lily, but you never buy me anything! You promised me new shoes for my birthday, Mom, but you never got them!”
Stacey’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh sweetie…”
“Never mind, mom!” said Eric sadly. “I don’t want anything. I don’t want shoes, and I don’t want dinner…”
Stacey tried again to comfort Eric, but it was in vain. Over time, he stopped spending time with her and Lily and was always alone in his room. He refused to eat and went to bed hungry almost every night.
Stacey was very concerned because Eric was a growing boy. He needed food and good nutrition. It hurt her that she was responsible for everything that had happened. Eric wouldn’t be disappointed if she had a decent job. She wished she had been a better mother to him.
A few days later, when Eric went to class, he sat down quietly and hid his feet under his chair as usual. He was ashamed to show his boots because he knew the other classmates would laugh at him.
When the math teacher, Mrs. Fletcher, entered the class, all the students greeted her. “Today we have a very special friend with us,” she said with a smile. “Everyone, welcome Ben, your new classmate.”
Shortly after, a boy in a wheelchair came in and there was a loud sigh in the classroom because the new boy had no legs. Eric covered his mouth in shock.
Someone from behind shouted, ‘He’s handicapped! Do you know how to walk?’ Then some students started laughing.
Despite the insult, Ben had a big smile on his face and Eric wondered why.
“Shh… everyone, be quiet!” Mrs. Fletcher told the children and they became silent. Eric, on the other hand, couldn’t take his eyes off Ben.
All day long Ben smiled at everyone, seemed happy and did not respond to the insults of the students who tried to mock him for being disabled. Eric couldn’t believe Ben was happy like there was nothing wrong with him.
When everyone left the class, he decided to talk to Ben. ‘How can you be so happy? Don’t you feel bad when others laugh at you? You… you have no legs. Doesn’t that make you sad?’
“Hey, I’m Ben, and you’re…”
‘I’m Eric. All the kids tease me about my old boots because my mother is poor,’ he said shyly. “They tease you too. I know they hurt you.’
“No, they don’t,” Ben said, and Eric was confused. “They can’t hurt me, and they can’t hurt you, Eric, if you don’t let them.”
“What? What do you mean?”
Ben grinned. “I don’t have legs, but I have a chair that guides me around, and I’m thankful for that. This is my magic chair! My mom always says we should be thankful for what we have, because we’ll be happy when we’re grateful being and appreciating what we have. Otherwise we will always be sad.”
“And who wants to be sad when you can be happy? Imagine if I didn’t have my magic chair. I couldn’t go to different places…So we should be happy with what we have. That’s real happiness !”
After listening to Ben, Eric realized he could be happy with his boots. Because if he didn’t have them, he would have to walk barefoot, which would hurt his feet! But because he had boots, he could walk comfortably! Rain was a problem, but he could always get his shoes repaired!
So when Eric got home that day, he decided to apologize to Stacey for his bad behavior. He’d picked up flowers on the way home and tied them together with a rubber band, and made a bouquet for Stacey before apologizing.
“I should appreciate what I have, Mom,” he told her. “I’m sorry I hurt you and yelled at you. I’m fine with my boots. I’m happy,” he said. Then he handed her the bouquet and hugged her.
“Oh dear, but…”
“I don’t want new boots, Mom. I want to be happy. We can be happy if we want to be happy, Mom. My new friend told me. I won’t bother you again!”
“Oh, I love you, honey. You’re a big boy!” Stacey hugged Eric and her tears flowed quietly.
What can we learn from this story?
- We can be happy if we want to. Nothing, not even a serious injury, made Ben miserable because he chose happiness over despair.
- Appreciate the things you have and be grateful. After talking to Ben, Eric understood that he could be content with what he had and learned to appreciate it.
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If you liked this story, you may like this story, about a poor mother who sold her dead son’s unworn boots to help a homeless woman and her child.
This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to real names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you’d like to share your story, send it to [email protected].