The Shoeshine!


The Shoeshine!

 Almost every time I travel through our nation’s airports, I look to get a shoeshine. I value the tradition that these men continue, a glimpse into the glory past, hard work ethics, and entrepreneurship; these qualities are what make our nation great. These men have the dignity to serve others, and a wealth of wisdom that they love to share. 

Larry was my guy on Wednesday afternoon at Midway airport in Chicago. I was headed to Toronto on Porter Airlines. (As an aside, consider Porter for your next flight to Toronto. You’ll fly into the downtown airport, Billy Bishop, for an old-time air experience. Think the movie, “Catch Me If You Can.”) 
Larry was a big and tall African-American in his mid-20s. Looking at my shoes as I walked by, he offered to give me the best shoeshine of my life. I took him up on the challenge and gladly sat down on my “throne.”
Immediately, Larry began: “What a glorious day, I am blessed!” 
I challenged him as to what he was most blessed with this day. He, of course, answered the obligatory – his job, the people he gets to meet, and women. 
He was smart to ask about my life – was I married, did I have kids, and what did I do for a living? I quickly shared the answers to those questions, but I was more interested in letting him do the talking. I wanted to value him and not me. 
I wanted him to influence my life, instead of my being the typical full-of-himself business owner flying to his “next big thing,” showering life-changing lessons to a lowly servant. No, that’s not what I felt, and I certainly didn’t want to continue to perpetuate that stereotype. 
I asked Larry what he had learned about life that he could share with me. He said, “Summer is tough. Many travelers are wearing sandals or flip-flops. They don’t need a ’shine. Money is tight in the summer. In the winter, I can take my girl to dinner, movies, buy her flowers, whatever I want. … I have fists full of money in the winter.” 
He went on: “Summer comes, and I can’t bless her with stuff.” He said that he couldn’t keep a girl through a summer. 
Larry pondered, as if finally understanding something for the first time. A light bulb went off. He said, “You know what? Wouldn’t I be wise to hold onto some of my blessings when I am in plenty, and save some for the drought times? Wouldn’t that help me to know if my girl loves me, or if she really just loves what I can give her?” 
Then he said: “The true character of a person is in how they deal with life’s challenges, not how they deal with the easy times. If someone is content with little, wouldn’t that be the prize?” I think he got it.
Sadly, my shoeshine was over, and I was not at all disappointed with the lessons that Larry taught me that day. (I also wasn’t disappointed with the quality of the actual shoeshine.) 
The biggest surprise was yet to come. After Larry and I hugged and thanked each other, he said, “Jeff, you helped me learn a big lesson today. I’m going to learn the true character of the next woman I date by learning if she loves me or just loves what I can do for her. I’m going to learn if she can be content with just me.” 
He continued, “If I can do that, maybe this won’t happen to me again.” 
I said, “What are you talking about?” 
Larry then pulled up his shirt to reveal the location of the bullet hole in his side that was a gift from his last girlfriend. It seems that after a season of drought, he saw her true character and was in the process of dismissing her as his girlfriend, when she said, “If I don’t get you, no one gets you,” and proceeded to shoot him and his father. Both men survived,
and she’s due out in one year, pending good behavior.
Go get a shoeshine. You never know what valuable lesson might be revealed for 6 bucks and a tip.
Contact Jeff Pinyot, President of ECO Parking Lights/ECO Lighting Solutions, at 
Article contributed by:
Jeff Pinyot
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