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.


Becky said...

The widow with two coins.
A gentle reminder about generosity for us all. Thank you.

RC said...

I remember very well going to a nursing home to visit an old feble member of our church. She stopped me before I left and reached into her purse and handed me one dollar for the church. She started to cry because she had no more to give. I wanted to give it back, but then I realized that I held in my hand the widows mite. From that point on people at the church made sure that had what she needed. She never asked for anything. That experience happened over twenty years ago and I remember it like it happened yesterday. I have been reading your blog for a number of weeks now and you make me realize how messy and yet how necessary real ministry to the poor is. I fight my rationalizations to do less every day. It can be overwhelming at times.

Larry James said...

Becky and RC, thanks for your comments.

Everyone matters, don't they?

Jeremy Gregg said...

Larry, we got a call the other day from the daughter of one of our supporters. Her mother had been sending us some money every month: not much, but much more than she could afford. She was calling to say that her mother had been moved into a retirement home, but was protesting with her family's request that she stop supporting CDM.

Here was a woman at the end of her life, in need of every dollar... and yet compelled to support us.

People are endlessly amazing.

fashion said...

great shoes with charming color...I love this color..i have a pair of same color timberland shoes. i feel more comfortable