What if the shoe was on the other foot?

You can find inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

On my way to meet up with some friends, I passed a shoe shine booth.

“Hey young fella, let me do you a favor and clean those up for you.”

I’m skeptical so I kept walking.

“No thanks man, but I appreciate it.”

“You sure? It’ll be on the house…” he replied.

Well, in that case…

So, I sat down and got my shoes shined professionally for the first time.

I was uncomfortable at first. It was a unique experience. Having someone shine your shoes and physically have to look up to you. I could only imagine how it would feel if the shoes were on the other foot (pun intended).

He started to share his story.

Turns out his name is Lawrence and he has been shining shoes since he was 16 years old. He didn’t say how old he was, but through our conversation he revealed that he has a couple of grandchildren that he is extremely proud of, as every grandparent should be.

He expressed how grateful he was for all of the people that have stopped to have their shoes shined…both those that mocked him and those that expressed their gratitude for his skill in this dying profession, which I consider to be an art form.

He had a rough childhood growing up and money was tight in his family. Raised by a single mother, he was the oldest of his 5 siblings. He started shining shoes to raise money to help alleviate the financial burden of his mother. His mom made sure they had a roof over their heads and food on the table, while Lawrence kept the clothes on their backs and made sure his brothers and sisters had a little change in their pockets. He was aware of the situation in his home and did what he could to contribute.

Can you imagine? Filling that role at 16?

I can’t tell you enough how positive his personality and overall energy was. All he did was express his gratitude for everything that he’s been through and all that he has been able to do for his family, including helping his oldest granddaughter go to college!

After hearing his story, I couldn’t help but ask him why, after all this time he was still shining shoes.

His answer was simple.

He started shining shoes to help his family, but by doing so he developed a love for people. He saw how good people felt after he shined their shoes; and he felt a duty to at least make the day of those he interacted with a little brighter after they walked away. That, and he expressed the importance of a gentleman to have clean shoes.

I regret not getting a picture with Lawrence for this write up, but I did get a picture of the final product, and he did not disappoint. Neither in his craft, nor in his mission to brighten my day.