Monday, August 14, 2006
I wrote the following essay in June 1997. After you read the story, I'll explain what happened next.
He sat in a chair near our coffee pot. He dozed while waiting his turn to visit with a counselor. His graying hair captured my attention first. When I caught eye of his feet, I stopped.
My introduction roused him from his nap.
I sat down on a table by his chair.
"What happened to your shoes," I asked.
"Someone took them while I was asleep," he answered with a bit of a sheepish grin and a slight downward turn of the head.
"When?" I asked.
"Well, let's see," he paused and rubbed his chin in thought and calculation. "Couple of weeks ago," he reported.
"You've been walking around barefoot for two weeks?" I asked.
"Yes, I expect I have. Look at those feet," he invited, as together we inspected his swollen, weary feet.
Living in a shelter, lost in the city, here was a man basically alone.
"Why?" doesn't matter much, does it?
Yes, he may be battling the consequences of alcoholism. Certainly poverty, hunger and the prospects offered by dead end after dead end contribute to his situation.
But, here was a man old enough to be my father who walked the streets of my city without shoes.
We provided him shoes. I would like to believe we gave him much more as well.
What price do you assign dignity, respect and love? Our work is important.
A few days after this story appeared in our newsletter, I received a note written in an unsteady script that read as follows:
"Larry, I can't do any more at this time--a little to help buy the poor guy some shoes."
Enclosed in the handwritten note was $7 in cash.
I still have the essay, the note and the cash framed and sitting by my desk in my office.