One of the ways the world has changed in my lifetime has to do with men’s shoes. Probably because I grew up in a post-World War II culture, where lots of men had served, and they all uniformly were expected to keep their leather shoes looking sharp, shoe shining was a regular business. Every hotel in downtown New Orleans had shoe shiners. Even modest hotels on the road would let you leave your shoes at the desk to be shined. I can remember the men’s hands who shined shoes for a living would be black as the polish they used (because they found applying it by hand was the fastest and most effective). And most men would never step into the sanctuary of a church without having shined their shoes.
My father decided, before I was born, that instead of usually depending on others to shine his shoes, he would do it himself. And he bought a professional shoe shine box. I call it a box but it is kind of shaped like a wooden tub (large enough to hold every type of shoe shining supplies anyone would need) along with a top that has the reversed bottom of a shoe on it (so you can put your shoe on it and polish while you wear it). When my father passed away, I chose it as one of the items I wanted from my father’s home. I hadn’t thought much of it till I saw my own leather shoes this morning (ugh) and sought it out. Opening it brought back memories and smells of my childhood.
And everything he had left there – a number of different types of polish, edge dressing, an old undershirt to apply the polish, and three different types of brushes – was still there. I was able to shine up my shoes like I was back in boot camp myself. And in a small way, I felt I was keeping an old tradition alive. I hope to use it now throughout my life and one day pass it on to my son. But who knows, by the time he is my age, they might not even make shoes out of leather anymore.
In the midst of all the change going on in our world, our nation, our church, and our neighborhoods, what values and beliefs do you find to be most important? I hope in future blog posts to post some values and beliefs that I believe are vital for the future (and a little more more substantial than shoe shining!). What do we need to hold onto the most as we move forward?
What do you notice that is changing in our world? What traditions (big and small) do you like to keep alive?
Until next time,