Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Modern Day Christmas Parable - The dirty old shoe man.


During this week leading up to Christmas I’ve been sharing some Christmas stories. Some of them have been Modern Day Parables. Modern day parables come in many forms and through many ways, but they show up just in time to touch ones soul, move our spirit and humble us in the process. This came to mind a couple of years ago as I drove past another street panhandler and too quickly passed judgment about his situation. Oh, I tried to justify my thoughts by thinking of all those homeless and financial rip-off  artists that tried to take advantage of the “system” and the generosity of the church … and then this came across my desk. Ouch …

The Shoe Man
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" …
      as 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 the 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 names' 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.
                                                anonymous

How we “look” at our neighbor makes a huge statement about our relationship with God.  How we greet the “stranger” among us speaks volumes about the role of grace in our lives.  In our “business” this season why don’t we try to see everyone around us instead of just focusing in on what we “have to get done”. Why don’t we take the time to really see the people … all the people … for whom Christ came to die for. Why don’t we we take the time to lift the spirit of a stranger. We might never know when an “dirty old shoe” might touch our soul.

Quote for today: Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. ~Mother Teresa

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