One of my favorite stories...

The Shoes

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, so I'd go and I'd pray.
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 a 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 shoes 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 the 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 suppose to look our best when we're walking through that door? Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought, glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended and the song of praises 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 silvers 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 is 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, the shoe man will never know....Like how thankful I really am that his dirty old shoe touched my soul....