#132: The Man with the Shined Shoes
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Many years ago when I worked as a hospital's personnel interviewer I learned a lesson in discipline and self-respect from a job applicant's shined shoes.
We had advertised for an incinerator operator, perhaps one of the lowest positions on the job rung, but a busy one and one that required personal responsibility and the ability to work independently.
One day an elderly man strode into the office, introduced himself and announced that he was a candidate for the position, displaying a positive attitude from the beginning.
As we talked, I looked at his mis-matched clothes and thought that at least he'd made an effort to wear a jacket and tie, even though those items and his trousers were worn and faded.
But it was his shoes that caught my attention. They possessed a high gloss usually found on shoes of people who had served in the Armed Forces.
"Were you in the military?" I asked.
"Yes sir," he replied.
"I thought so. The shoes gave you away."
He smiled and explained that he had been out of work for some time, that employers seemed reluctant to hire someone his age. But, he assured me, he was strong and had good stamina and was in the habit of coming to work on time and not calling in sick.
I looked again at his shoes. Even the areas where the little ridges are along the edges of his shoes were polished. Usually an old toothbrush will do the trick of getting polish in the grooves.
I realized then that although he wasn't dressed in modern attire, that the job did not require him to be so adorned. I knew, too, that the discipline he had retained from his military service not only drove him to dress in his best clothes but also to not leave the house with dirty, un-shined shoes.
This was the responsibility and discipline the job required. A self-starter who needn't be supervised every minute of the day.
I thought of this man whose name I can no longer recall as I sat tonight shining my own shoes with my old toothbrush and realized that we should not judge a person by the outer package they present but by the inner attitude they display.
We hired that man and were not sorry we did.
I may not remember the man's name, but the impression he made on me has lasted for 35 years. Not only because of his positive attitude and the self-respect he possessed but also because of his shined shoes.