A Dab of Dad's Shining Wisdom

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My Dad wore a different pair of black wing-tipped shoes every day to work.  Five days a week.  On Sundays I sat on an orange shoeshine box and shined five pairs of shoes.  

He showed me how to dab a bit of polish onto the old sock.  Applying the polish to the shoe, pay particular attention to the toes which tend to get scuffed.  Take the laces off so you can polish the tongues.  Make sure to get the sides of the soles.  Don't leave any polish blotches.  Brush in a fast, swaying motion until the dull polish reveals a shine that glints in the light.  Put the laces back on so there's equal length on each side.

Five pairs of shoes.  10 shoes.  It took me FOREVER to shine those shoes.  

Dad gave me a dime for my work, but ONLY if the shine on each shoe met his quality standards.  

Sometimes I was too eager to get out to play and the job wasn't done to his quality standards.  He called me in to finish the job or forfeit the dime.

A choice.

Never to disappoint, I would always come back and complete the job.  After the first couple times, I didn't get called in.

I learned.  

I learned what it takes to finish a high-quality job.  I learned about earning a little money to get things I wanted, like baseball cards.  And yes, I learned how to shine shoes.

Those lessons formed my own expectations of quality.  My own drive to finish what I start.  Getting out that orange shoeshine box and shining Dad's shoes shaped who I became.  Those very talents became the cornerstone of my success.

When I started in my career, what kind of shoes do you think I purchased?  

You guessed it:  Black wing tips.

On Sundays, I would get out the black shoeshine polish and polish them up, just like Dad taught me.  It was a Sunday ritual.  I smiled as I thought about Dad.  And oh yes, I shined a nice shine into those shoes!

In his waning years, Dad made each of us four kids make a prioritized list of the things we wanted from the estate.  

When he passed, we gathered at the house and pulled out our lists.  Starting with our #1 pick, we claimed what we wanted.  Oldest to youngest.  I'm the youngest.  The process was fair as that's how things ALWAYS worked in our family.  Orderly.  Methodical.  Logical.  After all, Dad was a finance manager and Mom a librarian.

That orange shoeshine box was near the top of my list.  

I was anxious.  Each sibling had a different purpose and strategy for our lists.  Memories.  Filling gaps in our homes.  Legacy.  Value.

We went around as we marched through our lists, beginning with top priorities and scratching off items as we went.  If another sibling picked an item on your list, you scratched it.  No contention.  Dad made a provision in his will saying if there was ANY contention on an item, then that item would be sold and proceeds divided four ways.  That's just how it was done.

Finally, my list got down to the orange shoeshine box and I announced my pick.

My oldest brother gave me a surprised look.

"You know I made that box for Dad when I was a Cub Scout."

I had no idea.  Of course, I offered it back to him.  He smiled, 

"No.  I made it.  Gave it to Dad.  Now, it's yours."

A Precious Gift Given Twice Multiples the Value!

These days when I shine my shoes, I pull down that old orange shoeshine box from the shelf.  I sit on our bench in the mudroom.  I reach into the box and pull out that black shoeshine paste.  Remember how that smells?  I dab some onto the old black sock, just like Dad taught me.  

And I begin.  

As I polish the shoes and brush them, the shine catches a glint of light from the nearby window.  

Hello Dad!  

I'm reminded of Dad's gift.  Of my brother's gift.  I say a prayer of thanks for each of them.

Yes, with a Dab of Gratitude, Gifts Twice Given Multiples the Value!

Shine Your Shoes and Shine Boldly!


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