Shoe Shiner

Shoe Shiner

It was a regular Service in a Sunday evening in an immigrant church in Fall River, MA. As I asked people to raise their joys and concerns for prayer, and a man stood up and mixing words and tears he said: “Pastor I just came from the borders of Mexico, I just arrived and saw my wife and kids who are here since last year. I was trying to come from the border when I was caught up by the border’s police. They kept me in jail for two months. I am exhausted. Please pray for me.”

After the service we talked at length and he told me that while he was running around the borders, he lost his torn shoes and arrived at the jail shoeless. He was totally embarrassed and ashamed. “Pastor”, he said “there is anything worse than not being able to wear our own shoes”. This man had worked all his life, he had a family, and along with his wife they raised their kids. Now, he was in jail because he wanted to come and see his family and try to work. He was feeling tired, humiliated and couldn’t look at his kids. Worse, now he had become dependent of a “friend” who borrowed him money to pay the court fees in the borders… We prayed and he went to another city where his family was.

Two months later he comes back to church and now he is with his family. As I ask people to offer their joys and concerns he stands up and say: “Pastor, this is my family. Now I have a job: I am moving to Boston where I got a job as a shoe shiner in one of the Boston hotels. I am happy, I will be a shoe shiner…”.

That story reminded me of myself when I was 9 years old and was a shoe shiner in São Paulo, Brazil. So many things happen to me since that time… So many things will happen to this man and to his family and I wonder how much God gives us strength to to fight our worst situations and move on, one way or another.

There is something that moves us and we have a hard time trying to understand it. I quote Heidegger’s brother, Fritz Heidegger, to give us a hint about this something that moves in and around us everywhere we go.  He said: “In all of us, in the most hidden part of our hearts, lives something that is able to overcome all the afflictions of life: It is the happiness, the last trace of the original craziness and passion that once abided in us fully but now, we are just a dim notion.” As we carry this dim notion of the happiness, craziness and passion, I dare say of God, we can move and go places, with or without our shoes. Where have your shoes taken you? What were the afflictions you overcame? When I look back to this shoe shinning boy wandering in the streets of São Paulo, I can’t help but keep saying and performing in the liturgies of the church that God is my strength, my craziness, and my joy! What about you?

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