I 'm a runner.
I used to wear a pair of orange shoelaces in my running shoes. Every race, every season, I was known for my orange shoelaces. They were my lucky charm. However this past summer when I went to Appalachia and met a young man nicknamed "Bug," my lucky charm took on a new meaning.
I had brought my running shoes to Appalachia with plans to run every morning. However, I never expected to be so wiped out that I never ran. I did; however, wear my running shoes - navy and white sneakers fully equipped with two bright orange shoelaces. Bug, who was developmentally delayed and older than me, immediately became infatuated with them. At first he just stared at them, and then he said something to me. I got a little scared, mostly because I didn't know him and he seemed so old compared to my 14 years. He got up to come near me. I stood up. He started running toward me, and I guess I got a little spooked. Being the runner that I am, I immediately took off. So did he. He chased me down the big hill. I guess the adults caught a glimpse of this "scene" and came running out yelling, "Bug ... Bug! You come back here. Leave her alone!" He stopped and turned back, trudging up the hill. I looked back and figured it was safe for me to come back.
After that incident I didn't go near Bug. I felt bad because I didn't truly realize what was going on in his head. I knew that he was slow, but there was nothing wrong with me. Finally, in the last few days I got to know Bug better. His mother had told him not to keep trying to touch my shoes. He gave it all his effort and did a very good job.
All of a sudden it was my last night. Time had passed so quickly. Even though we all knew that the memory of this trip would live in our minds and hearts forever, we all wanted to give a material object that would tie us, forever, to Appalachia. Two of the girls who lived there gave away their favorite bracelets. One of them gave me a pair of earrings and I gave her one of my stuffed animals.
Then I saw Bug, just sitting there. I looked out the window and it was pouring, and not about to let up. We were up in the dining hall; our cabins were about 100 yards down the hill. I got out of my seat and ran into the pouring rain, into the darkness.
Once I was in the cabin I started to take out one of my orange shoelaces. At first I was thinking, "Wait. This is my lucky charm and will Bug understand the meaning of this? I decided to give it a try anyway. I ran back to the dining hall and over to Bug. I said, "Bug, this is one of my lucky shoelaces, but I want you to have it to remember us by, okay?"
Bug's only reply was "Wow!" He jumped up and down, and tied it around his neck. We had to tell him to loosen it. He was so excited that I knew I had made the right decision. All week we had worked on the homes of people who never would have been able to do it by themselves, and yes, that felt good. Helping others is one of the greatest feelings in the world, but giving Bug that shoelace touched me the most.
Today, I run with only one orange shoelace. And when people ask me I say I gave it away to someone who valued it more than as good luck object that kept my shoes on my feet. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.