The 'Shoe' Man

My alarm went off
It was Sunday again.
I was sleepy and tired,
My one day to sleep in.

But the guilt I would feel
The rest of the day
Would have been too much,
So I'd go and I'd pray.

I showered and shaved,
I adjusted my tie,
I got there and sat
In a pew just in time.

Bowing my head in prayer
As I closed my eyes,
I saw the shoe of the man next to me
Touching my own. I sighed.

With plenty of room on either side,
I thought, "Why must our soles touch?"
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine,
But it didn't bother him much.

A prayer began: "Our Father"
I thought, "This man with the shoes has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched
Even worse, there are holes on the side!"

"Thank You for blessings," the prayer went on.
The shoe man said a quiet "Amen."
I tried to focus on the prayer,
But my thoughts were on his shoes again.

Aren't we supposed to look our best
When walking through that door?
"Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought,
Glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended
And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud,
Sounding proud as he sang.

His voice lifted the rafters,
His hands were raised high,
The Lord could surely hear
The shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering
And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached
Into his pockets so deep.

I saw what was pulled out,
What the shoe man put in,
Then I heard a soft "clink"
When silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me
To tears, and that's no lie
It was the same for the shoe man,
For tears fell from his eyes.

At the end of the service,
As is the custom here,
We must greet new visitors
And show them all good cheer.

But I felt moved somehow
And wanted to meet shoe man
So after the closing prayer,
I reached over and shook his hand.

He was old and his skin was dark,
And his hair was truly a mess
But I thanked him for coming,
For being our guest.

He said, "My name's Charlie,
I'm glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eyes
But he had a large, wide grin.

"Let me explain," he said
Wiping tears from his eyes.
"I've been coming here for months,
And you're the first to say 'Hi.'"

"I know that my appearance
"Is not like all the rest,
"But I really do try
"To always look my best."

"I always clean and polish my shoes
"Before my very long walk
"But by the time I get here,
"They're dirty and dusty, like chalk."

My heart filled with pain and
I swallowed to hide my tears
As he continued to apologize
For daring to sit so near.

He said, "When I get here,
"I know I must look a sight.
"But I thought if I could touch you,
"Then maybe our souls might unite."

I was silent for a moment
Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison.
I spoke from my heart, not my head.

"Oh, you've touched me," I said,
"and taught me, in part,
"That the best of any man
"Is what is found in his heart."

The rest, I thought,
This shoe man will never know...
Like just how thankful I really am
That his dirty old shoe touched my soul...

You might be best friends one year,
Pretty good friends the next year,
Don't talk that often the next year,
Don't want to talk at all the year after that.

So, I just wanted to say,
Even if I never talk to you again in my life,
You are special to me and
You have made a difference in my life.

I respect you, and truly cherish you.
Let old friends know you haven't forgotten them,
And tell new friends you never will.
Remember, everyone needs a friend,
Someday you might feel like you have no friends at all.

Author Unknown.

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