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Aaron Johnson: Blessings & tennis shoes

Back to school season is upon us. 

For some reason this season is special to me. School days were some of the best times during my growing up years. I never attended school for an academic pursuit. My sole purpose in school was what I choose to call “social enrichment.” But even those of us who attended for less than academic scholarship, getting supplied for school was an event.

The big purchase each fall was tennis shoes. There were only two choices back then. A kid could choose Keds or PF Flyers. 

The shoes were pretty much the same except for the rectangular label on the heel of the sole. Well, that and the cool gadget the company gave with each purchase. I well remember a secret spy code device that allowed the owner to send and decode messages to and from another kid with the same shoes.  

I usually picked PF Flyers because of their cool gift and because of their super cool slogan. The advertisement always said, “You can run faster and jump higher when you wear PF Flyers.”  

I was a thick kid with jeans from Sears & Roebuck because they were the only ones who carried “husky” jeans. The very sound of running faster and jumping higher was enough to entice a thick kid like me to pick the Flyers regardless of the cool gadget.

One year, before I was old enough to be in school, my parents bought me my first pair of Flyers. The day after the purchase my mother had dressed me and sat me on the couch with strict orders to remain there until she got my little brother, Michael, ready for departure. I well remember sitting there looking at these shoes that were certain to make me the fastest kid on the block.

Who was she to tell me to sit there and wait? I had PF Flyers! She couldn’t catch me!  

In an instant of foolish bravery, I jumped from the couch and dashed out of the house. I faintly remember hearing my mother shout my name. That move began a series of mistakes.  

My dad was home that morning. I was aware of that, but you had to remember, he had no PF Flyers!  

I could run faster and jump higher than anybody in town! As my foot stepped onto the grass off the porch, I heard my dad call my name.  

He was unaware of my new superhuman speed and my ability to defy gravity. In an instant, I chose to run from my dad.

The next mistake was running into the back yard. Our back yard was fenced, with a single gate. As I ran an arc in the yard, my dad stepped into the back yard and closed the gate.  

He casually took the time to stop by a shrub at the corner of the house and carefully select a healthy branch. He stripped the leaves off with one smooth strip, then turned his attention to his son, now making laps inside the fence.  

At this point in time, I learned a truth about advertising. PF Flyers lied.

My dad wrote the book on how to use a hickory. Like Indiana Jones, he directed me back into the house using nothing but a hickory switch. As I recall, the switch wore out about the time we cleared the threshold.    

Tearfully sitting on the same couch, I had earlier escaped, I made two decisions. One was that I would never believe another advertisement. The second, never again would I run from my father. 

And I didn’t.  

I still don’t believe all the advertisements. The right cologne won’t make me irresistible.  The right truck won’t last forever. And I still haven’t called Alexander Shunnarah. I have not seen a pair of PF Flyers in years and I think I know why.  

I was blessed to have a father who worked to provide and a mother who took care of us. When school starts next week, a lot of kids will go back without the network of support they need. That is where we come into the picture.  

Find out what you can do to make an impact on some kid who can’t afford a new pair of PF Flyers. 

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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