I walked into my son’s room a couple of weeks before he was due home for the winter holiday break. I had no particular reason; I was simply checking to see if his room was ready for him. As I walked by his closet, I saw a pair of golf shoes, a gently worn pair of golf shoes. I took a deep breath and thought about the story behind them.
When my son was a freshman in high school he joined the golf team. After a few days of practice, he came home with these golf shoes. “Where did you get the golf shoes?” I asked. “Mr. Woodworth gave them to me. I was wearing sneakers and he gave me his old pair. They fit, too,” he said happily. A nice, kind gesture, I had thought at the time. And, if golf is something my son likes, at the rate he’s growing, he’ll need another pair soon. This was a nice way to start. I’m all for reusing and recycling.
When my son came home a few days later, we talked about Mr. Woodworth, and how he’d be missed by so many. When I mentioned the shoes, my son looked down, and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” My daughter asked, “Why did he give you his old golf shoes?” This was a typical question for her. Her brother, showing annoyance toward her, responded, “Because he wanted me to do good.” Here was the thoughtful response from him.
I hadn’t looked at it that way when I first saw the shoes. You see, I didn’t really know Mr. Woodworth in the way so many people in this town knew him. I knew that he had a special ability to connect with elementary school aged children as their physical education teacher, but also with high school students as a revered coach of several sports, teams of both boys and girls. And I knew that was a rare quality. But my son, like all of Mr. Woodworth’s students, knew more. He saw the true teacher and coach, someone who made a lifetime career of developing the skills in others. It wasn’t just about giving a used pair of golf shoes to help a student get started, it was about providing the tools necessary to begin on the path to success. In looking at the social media postings from his former students, this is a loud and clear message. I didn’t have to know Mr. Woodworth to know the impact he made on the students in Ipswich.
“He made the best obstacle courses,” my daughter noted, breaking our brief moment of silence. “Remember the rope? That was the best.”
I think about the shoes again. They are a fairly large size, but somehow they seem even bigger now. Perhaps I’ll give them to another new golf student; it would be easy to find someone to wear Mr. Woodworth’s golf shoes. A question still remains in my mind, though, a lingering question. I can find someone to wear them, but who will fill Mr. Woodworth’s shoes?