More than once I have shared a story from Jason Wright’s columns. I love the way he writes, I love the way he sees life, so that is why I share it…in hopes that if you feel the same way, you will read more of his works. His books are great too.
Great story for today, hope you enjoy it!
Good night dear friends!
Meet my shoe shining hero
September 21, 2011
The man braves the New York City subway system five or six days a week from his humble home in Brooklyn to the madness of Times Square. He enters one of the popular hotels through an employees' entrance and shuffles his way through dense, slow-moving clouds of tourists speaking a dozen different languages.
The man sets up for another long day in his small spot in the lobby. Like an artist, he carefully arranges polish tins, rags, creams and brushes in his workspace. He is deliberate, practiced and expert in every move.
But he is not an artist. He's just a shoe shiner.
I met this man for the first time six years ago while visiting New York City on business. I remember how he shined my cheap strip-mall shoes like they were a $300 handmade pair of loafers from an Italian village. He bent and bowed and circled my feet, diving and dipping back and forth between each shoe with an eye single to the perfect shine.
I've sat in his chair many times since. Even on trips to Manhattan when I stay in other hotels, I always make time to visit my friend. His handshake is firm; his skin aged by years of humble labor. The wiry hair in his bushy eyebrows is gray, and I wonder all that the eyes below have witnessed.
This is the paragraph where I wish I could share his name, but when I asked about writing this column, he insisted I reveal neither his identity nor the name of the hotel. "I don't need any extra attention," he said. "I'm just being me."
My admiration for this everyday hero grows with each shoeshine.
During many trips to his chair, I've noticed that he chats as much or as little as his customers wish. I've also observed that most don't bother engaging him.
They have no idea what they're missing.
This simple shoe shiner is 80 years old. He's been shining shoes for 70 of them. How many people do you know who haven't just been working for seven decades, but in the same field? This good-humored man will tell you he's been at it so long, he once buffed up Lewis and Clark's moccasins.
He began shining shoes on street corners as a youngster. He helped support his family and saved what little was left. He attended school and beat his neighborhood odds by graduating from high school. He shattered the odds by earning a bachelor's degree and pulverized them by earning a master's. Much of his tuition was paid for with shoe shining.
He changed his clothes and worked in the corporate world for a short time, but he could not change what he loved most. Sometimes on weekends he would find a street corner and set up shop. Before long he was shining shoes once more, discussing current events and politics as he made the old and tired look new again.
He married, had three children and put each of them through college by shining shoes. If his life were a movie, this would be the scene where the audience rolls their eyes and whispers, "Yeah, right. Like that could ever happen."
On my most recent trip to New York, my friend told me that he'd once collapsed on the subway and been rushed to the hospital by strangers. He doesn't remember anything but waking up under bright florescent lights with his tearful sweetheart wagging her finger.
"How long ago was that?" I asked.
I laughed so hard I almost fell off the chair. Honestly, I'm not sure whether he's polishing shoes or souls.
Though I'm only in New York a few times a year, I often think of my friend and consider the joy he finds in his work. Do I love what I do the way he does? Do you?
I also wonder how many people dismiss him because he's a blue-collar man. Untold thousands have likely passed him by and assumed the elderly man is uneducated, unemployable and uninteresting.
To me, he's unbelievable.
This shoe shiner is one of those human beings everyone should have the opportunity to meet and learn from. Me? I'm thankful to have learned to do what I know, to love what I do and to smile as I do it. Without realizing it, he's made me want to be a better person and to try shining the shoes of those I meet.
I'm sure that if my friend reads this column, he'll be embarrassed that I've called him a hero. But why not?
He's a man who supports his family honorably.
He's a man who treats people with respect.
He's a man who does all that while working where his heart and the subway drive him everyday.
He's my shoe shiner hero. Who's yours?
“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” ~ Wayne Dyer