“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
After weeks of shopping, hanging ornaments, planning meals, and making arrangements for flights home, Christmas is finally here. The pressure, anxiety, and worry will soon be over. It’s so easy to get so caught up in the hoopla and anticipation that we overlook the most important elements of the holiday.
As I was searching for something to write about this Christmas, something that might make this a better Christmas for you and me, I have to admit that I was so stressed that nothing came to mind. These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I made the first of three trips to the airport on Christmas Eve.
I arrived about 15 minutes before my son, Matthew’s flight was to arrive from Orlando. As I walked through the terminal, I passed an older gentleman in a stocking cap.
As our eyes met we exchanged Merry Christmas greetings and as we passed each other, he looked down and said in a confident voice, “I can put a Christmas shine on those shoes for you.”
Surprised, I replied, “Maybe later, I’ve got to check on my son’s flight.”
As I sat down outside the restricted area waiting for his arrival, I looked up and there was a shoe shine stand a few yards away, and standing next to the stand was the gentleman with whom I had just exchanged Christmas greetings.
As he spotted me he smiled and asked, “Ready for that Christmas shine now?”
“Sure,” I replied with a smile. “I’ve got about 15 minutes before my son’s flight arrives.
As I climbed up to the seat on his stand, it felt great as I realized that this was the first time I had a chance to sit all day.
“How are you,” I offered making small talk.
“Blessed, I’m very blessed,” he replied.
With that he began to tell me that he was just released from the hospital a week ago and this was his first day back on the job. He had heart problems and wasn’t expected to make it.
“It’s a miracle that I am alive today and I am so grateful,” he humbly said. “Now, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m alive, my wife is home cooking, and my children and grandchildren will be at my house on Christmas day. This week could have been very sad, but God has blessed me with a second chance at life and this will be the best Christmas ever!”
As he applied the polish and brushed away at my shoes they began to take on a shine.
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “They look shinier than when I bought them.”
“I’m just getting started,” He replied. “Most shoe shine stands just brush and buff; I’ll give them a spit shine.”
As he continued to apply coats of polish and snap his cloth I asked, “How long have you been shining shoes?”
“53 years,” he responded without missing a beat of the rhythm of the snapping cloth. “I started when I was 9 years old and I’m 62 now. I am proud of the job I do; I think I am the best in the business!”
After a few finishing touches he was done and I agreed that this was the best shoe shine I had ever seen. As I stepped down from the stand our eyes met again.
He questioned me, “Does that look like a $5 dollar shine to you?”
“No,” I said. “It looks more like a $20 dollar shine to me,” as I reached for my wallet and handed him a $20 dollar bill.
“Merry Christmas,” He said humbly.
“And a Blessed Christmas to you, your wife and family too!” I quietly responded as I noticed that my son’s flight had just arrived.
Later that evening, as I stood near the manger in our living room, I began to reflect on our conversation.
I too, have had health scares and was here to enjoy the holiday.
I too, am grateful to be alive.
My wife was cooking, baking and preparing for Christmas Day.
I’ve been at a job I love for 50 years this coming January, and just like the shoe shine man, I feel that I am the best at what I do.
Standing before the manger scene, I realized that his humble gratitude had rubbed off on me, just as the dust and grime had been rubbed off my shoes. He had shined my heart at the same time he shined my shoes.
As my head bowed, a tear fell from my face onto my newly shined shoes and I could feel God’s love shining in my heart.
And, that’s my Christmas wish for you, my friend. May you be grateful to be alive, to be spending time with your family and proud of the work you do to support them, whether you are a doctor or a shoe shine man.
May the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the light of the world, shine in your heart, like the glow in my heart and the gleam of my $20 dollar shine.
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