“Hate” can be found on every corner these days, often accompanied by fear; it seems these two go hand in hand. Fear of the unknown, hate toward a stranger. “He can’t have what is mine”, like we all would be still sitting in a big sandbox building sand castles. “Don’t touch me,” “Don’t invade my space.” We do sound like children, what are we scared off?
Why can’t we all play in the sandbox together? We are competing in the sandbox and protect our space. First we play nice and share a little bit, then, when we are frustrated we start kicking sand in each others faces.
Immigrants and migrants have to leave the sandbox. “This is mine, go away”. We separate by color, by gender, by sexual orientation. “Don’t touch me, I am better than you.”
I don’t belong to any religion, but I have my believes, so as strange at it might seem, I would like to share this with all of you. This poem made me think about all of it, the way we behave and react so often toward anything and everything that we don’t know.
The Old Shoes in Church
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 eye.
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 name’s 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.