There once was a little loafer who lived on the bottom shelf of a children’s shoe store. The little loafer loved to listen to the stories of the other little shoes. They ignored the loafer because his laces were green. All the other little shoes wore red, orange, yellow, blue, violet, and pink. They thought the loafer looked funny because no one wears green laces with brown loafers.

The little running shoes bragged about pedaling bikes and pushing skateboards. The little sandals dreamed of walking along the beach. The tiny boots imagined digging and building. The small slippers pictured enjoying a warm, cozy fire. The diminutive dress shoes described dancing at weddings and fancy birthday parties.

Although the little loafer loved to listen to stories, he never shared his own. He didn’t know what he could do or who he would be when he left the store, but he knew in his sole, he was special.

One morning, the store manager told the shoes great news. A new test was created to make better shoes. It was a running test. The test was made to help the shoes get faster. To prepare for the test, all shoes needed new laces. The new laces had to be black.

“I can’t wait for the running test,” a pink trainer said. “I love to run!”

“I can’t wait to get brand-new laces!” yelled a sandal.

“I will look great in in black laces,” said a shiny dress shoe.

The owner smiled at the shelves filled with shoes. “Yes. You all should be excited. We are going to make you into great shoes.”

But not all the shoes were excited.

“Why do we have to run?” the loafer asked meekly.

“Good question, shoe,” said the manager. “Shoes run at different speeds. This is unfair, isn’t it? Don’t you think everyone should be fast?”

“Umm… yes?” replied the loafer.

“That’s correct. Everyone should run fast. No one wants to be slow. You will be a faster runner with the new tests.”

“OK, but, I don’t want to change my laces,” said the loafer. “Green is my favorite color.”

“That is normal, shoe. You see, some very smart people, called Big Shoes found you little shoes are not ready for life outside of the store. After spending hours thinking super hard about the problems they saw, they decided the best way to make better footwear, was to start making better tests. The tests you will take will make you grow incrementally. So, we got you brand new laces to keep you focused on the tests.”

“I like digging outside,” a work boot interrupted. “Is there a digging test?”

“I bet you’re an incredible digger,” said the manager. “But don’t you want to go to college? College will teach you all about the world and give you opportunities that you would not be exposed to without these new tests.”

The work boot was confused. “I guess,” he said.

“You see shoes, we have to get you ready for when you grow up.”

“I thought I was supposed to do kid stuff?” the loafer replied.

“That’s not what very smart Big Shoes from the factory think is best for you,” the manager said. “So, we need to make sure our store has everyone ready for these tests so we don’t get in trouble. No one wants to get in trouble, right?”

“Nooo!” the kids yelled in unison. All except the loafer.

“Great! Our school day is going to be a little different to make sure we do our very best on the very important test. First, we will only exercise three times a week for 15 minutes each day. Some days we will not have recess and lunch will now be 15 minutes. We need to get you ready for later on, so we have made later on, now. This is just like being a Big Shoe!”

“Oh. But I want to be a loafer. I want to be comfortable and warm and happy.”

The manager walked over to the loafer. “Your running score was among the lowest in the store. Only the flipflops, clogs, and pumps scored lower,” the manager said as he tried to comfort the little loafer with one of his grey laces.

“I ran as fast as I could,” the loafer said. “I guess I am a bad shoe? I don’t want to be in the store anymore.”

“No, no, no! Of course you’re a good shoe. That’s why we’re here; to help you become a better shoe. To support you and make you the best you, you can be. That’s why you have to take more tests.”

“I don’t see why you’re complaining,” the pink shoe interrupted. “The manager is just trying to help you. Stop getting your laces twisted and just take the tests like all the rest of us.”

“Like, yeah,” said the dress shoe. “Stop making excuses. We all have to take the tests.”

“Settle down, shoes,” the manager commanded. “This is important.” The manager turned to the little loafer. “How can we help you if you don’t take the tests? You need to be part of the race.”

Tears began to well in the little loafer’s eyes. “But I don’t want to race. I don’t want to be big. I don’t want to go to an office. I want to be a kid!”

“If you don’t take the race test, then people will think we are a bad store,” the manager replied. “Do you like our store?”

“I love it. The store is my home.”

“That’s wonderful! We want to show everyone how great our store is. The way big shoes do that, is with something called data. The tests will give us data and everyone will see just how much you little shoes love the store!”

“Who are the big shoes?” the little loafer asked.

“They are the ones who are trying to make stores better.”

“Did they make the tests?”

“Why, yes they did.”

“But the tests make me feel bad and I still don’t know why I have to take them. That doesn’t sound like better.”

The owner paused and thought for a moment and looked around at the little shoes that waited for his answer. “Sometimes we are given things that we don’t like. What I do when that happens, is I just take it and try to make the best of it. It’s what being a grown-up is all about.”

“But I am not a grown up. And I already know my store is awesome and I don’t care what the big shoes think.” The little loafer’s tears came pouring down. “I don’t want to be in the store anymore!”

“You’ll be ok, I…” But the manager didn’t have the words. He knew the brave little loafer was hurting and that the pain was caused by the test.

The brave little loafer was shocked. “But the big shoes will say our store is bad!” He cried. “It’s just me. Let me go and let everyone else take the tests.”

The work boot stepped forward. “No. It’s me too little loafer. I am scared of the test too.”

“Me too,” said the flip flop.

“And me,” added the shiny dress shoe. And soon, the entire store shared that the new tests that were supposed to make things better, were actually making them worse. They did not want to change their laces to black. They did not want to change for a test.

The manager, sensing how much the test was hurting the little shoes, did something amazing. He went to the storage room and came back out different. His once grey laces were now a bright neon green. “When the Big Shoes come in,” he said, “they will know that this is our store. People have always loved our shoes. No running test can measure how comfortable, durable, or more importantly, how brave a little shoe can be. I am going to wear green laces to remind me why I became a manger in the first place. Thank you brave little loafer.”

The experience taught everyone just how great their store was and how silly it was to judge themselves on a number created by big shoes that didn’t even know them.

From that day on, the brave little loafer, as all his friends called him, was warm and comfortable, and happy. And the store which never had a problem, became a place where no shoes were judged by a number or forced to be something other than what they are.