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The Shoe Man Poem

by Leanne Freiberg

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

The rest of the day

Would have been too much

So I'd go and I'd pray.


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 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 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 names' 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.

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