“You need to list those skates for sale!” My inner guidance kept telling me for a few days.
I stared at the the three pairs of black figure skates my son had outgrew. He had not been skating for over 6 months since he was diagnosed with Sever’s Disease, a growth related issue that caused swelling and pain in his knees and heels.
Since leaving the figure skating circle, it was not clear to me how I could find a new home for his old figure skates. There aren’t many boys who figure skate and these skates were custom fitted and stretched at times to fit to my son’s feet. Who else would be able to use them?
I decided to follow my intuition and listed two pairs of figure skates on Facebook marketplace to begin with. No one contacted me about the figure skates for days. This was unlike the other items I tried to sell as I have found takers for most of the items when the price was right. Each pair of figure skates and accessories cost nearly $500 CAD. My son did not wear his figure skates for very long as his feet grew quickly.
I laid in bed at night a few days after I listed the figure skates for sale, sending out my intention and hope that they will find a good home in a world where figure skating boys in need of second hand skates were rare.
Eight days after I listed the figure skates I received a message written in Chinese. At first she just asked for additional pictures of the figure skates (which I provided), then she expressed interest in buying them, after checking with her son’s figure skating coach. Carrie (not her real name) explained that she was a single mother trying hard to give her son the ability to figure skate. They didn’t have money to buy figure skates for her son so her son had to wear her cheap white figure skates for lessons. His figure skating coach told her that the skates he was wearing were not sufficient for figure skating.
My heart ached of sadness when I saw this message. It reminded me of my own situation many years ago, when I was 11 years old. I had moved to Canada from Asia and started skating lessons at the local community rink. I just LOVED to skate and I showed up to my lessons early to practice and I stayed late after my lessons to practice some more. My dad was busy working and my mom was emotionally not available to us so my sister and I walked to the community center ourselves.
One day, my dad came to watch us and the instructor pulled him aside and told him, “Your daughters have improved 1000% since they first started! They should try figure skating!”
We were renting plastic skates at the time at the community center for our lessons. We really wanted our own pair of skates but my dad was too poor to afford them. My father, my sister, and I decided to wake up at 5 am to deliver newspapers to see if we can make enough money to pay for our own skates. After one month, we made enough money and we bought ourselves, the only kind of figure skates we knew — plastic ones.
The rapid improvement my sister and I were making in skating soon meant that we have completed all the levels of basic skating that was available at the community center. In order to keep skating our instructors suggested that we should try figure skating. We did one introductory class in figure skating in our plastic skates but our instructor said we needed to get leather skates with more boot support in order to continue figure skating. Twenty-seven years ago, the cheapest pair of skates suitable for figure skating were over $200 / pair. We went to try the skates and got them fitted to our feet. We were so excited to pick up the skates when my father pulled my sister and I aside and delivered a big blow. “Sorry girls, I have thought hard about this, I only take home $2100 / month and I can’t justify spending $400 on skates for both of you. This doesn’t even include the fees we would owe for figure skating lessons. There is nothing more I can do for you guys at this time.”
My sister and I cried. Being in a family that was financially challenged meant that I could not do many things I wanted to do. The truth is, a girl who starts figure skating at the age of 12 will be highly unlikely to become an Olympic figure skater. There was no future for us in figure skating. It was just something I loved to do that costed way too much for our family.
My dad left us when we were teenagers to pursue his career in Asia. He eventually made enough money to put my sister and I through college and we got part-time jobs to make some spending money for ourselves. Life became more comfortable for our family and when my children were born, we were in a financial position to let them do whatever it was they wanted to try. I was delighted when I noticed that my eldest son showed interest in figure skating when he was 5 years old. I took him to his training sessions 4 to 5 times a week and loving every moment I watched him skate. This was of course not possible now as he had decided to stop skating.
So when I read Carrie’s Facebook message about being a single mother with financial challenges I felt an instant connection with her plight. I heard a voice in my heart telling me that if the skates were to fit her son, I would give them to her for free.
I showed up with three pairs of gorgeous black figure skates, skating socks, and brand new skating gloves I bought long ago. I had three pairs of figure skates for her son to try – size 1, size 2.5, and a size 3.5. After trying the skates, the ten year old boy (same age as my son) was able to fit into the size 2.5 nicely even if the skates were previously stretched to accommodate my son’s growing feet.
Carrie was happy she could find second hand figure skates. I knew it was time to discuss the price as Carrie started with the words, “So…how much…”.
“After you shared your story with me, I realized that your story was similar to mine.” I said, “When I was about your son’s age, my parents were getting a divorce and I could not skate because my dad could not afford to buy me skates. So I’ve decided to give these skates to you for free.”
“In addition to that, I will also give you the size 3.5 skates for the time when his grows out of the size 2.5 skates. I also want you to take the size one skates.” I really just wanted to say everything at once because I really want to deliver my message all at once. “If you can find someone to sell the size one skates to, then you can take the proceed of that sale to pay for your son’s skating fees.
Phew! I was just pointing at the skates while I spoke and somehow I didn’t really look at Carrie at the time. Maybe I didn’t want to cry because the little girl inside of me really wanted to cry. I was emotionally connected to that part of me who was sad and disappointed that I couldn’t skate and I felt happy that the disappointment I had felt in the past allowed me to do something for this family now so that this little boy doesn’t have to go through the same disappointment I went through.
I finally looked up at Carrie and saw her eyes wide open with complete shock. For a few moments she couldn’t say a word. Then, she started waving her hands in front of her eyes, hoping she could wave her tears away. It didn’t work though as they fell helplessly down her eyes. I walked over to her with my arms extended and pulled her into a hug.
“I’m sorry…I feel completely shocked.” Carried said as she took a piece of tissue I offered her, “Are you an Angel? Because you are an Angel for us today.”
I turned to her son and said, “Remember, skating is fun. No matter how long you choose to skate, one day, other people and perhaps even your own kids can benefit from your skating. I’m not a world champion, but I was able to give my son the opportunity to enjoy skating.”
He nodded his head and looked down at the beautiful skates he was wearing — pretending to fumble with his laces while quietly wiping tears away from his face.
When I went home my kids were eager to ask me if I was able to sell the skates. I told them the story and how I just gave three pairs of skates away for free. These skate combine cost nearly $1500 CAD when I bought them for my son. Now, it is worth every penny to give them away for free.
“It is nice to be generous and help others.” My son said. “I’m happy you were able to help them.”
“So was I…”
If I could travel back in time, I would tell my 12 year old self, “Dear May, I know you are upset that you cannot continue to learn how to figure skate. I want you to know that this pain and disappointment is not for nothing. One day, your family will have the ability to give your kids the opportunities you didn’t have AND you are going to make a Huge difference to another child…just like you.”