At Mount Alvernia, we have many opportunities to be grateful and, after a stunning Open Day last Sunday, where the enthusiasm of tour guides enthralled our visitors, where the activities and take away items amazed and captivated our potential students, and where the ever present and always willing participation from our teachers and staff shone through, I am compelled to stop and shout: "I am profoundly grateful for what I have here at Mount Alvernia!"
However, in case we need another gentle reminder, I share with you a story that gives us food for thought…
My alarm went off.
It was Sunday again.
I was sleepy and tired; it was 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. I’d pray.
I showered and dressed,
I adjusted by clothes,
I got there and sat in a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer before I closed my eyes,
I say the shoe of the man next to me
was 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", someone said.
I thought, "This man with the shoes has no pride.
They’re dusty, worn, scratched end to end.
Even worse, there are holes in 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 collection
and what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the show man reached
into his pockets so deep.
I tried to see what was pulled out,
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 shoe man,
so after the closing prayer, I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was tanned, and his hair was truly a mess
but I thanked him for coming, for being our guest.
He said, "My name is 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 are 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 apologise 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 grateful I really am
that this dirty old shoe touched my soul …
Have a wonderful week, in seeking opportunities to give thanks to our God.