Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Gift From An Old Man With No Legs, To A Young Man Without Shoes


--by keepsmiling, posted Dec 11, 2009

It had been a long time since I had been to Jacksonville, Florida. I had driven to town hoping to see the old barber shop where my hair had been cut as a child.  The orphanage would bring us kids downtown for a free haircut by the new barbers being trained. As I wondered around, I was a little disappointed when I saw the old buildings that I had known as a young boy were now gone.  Every one of them had been replaced with new high-rise buildings.  

As it was very early and hardly anyone was on the street, I parked my truck and decided to try and locate a telephone to see if the Florida Barber College had moved to a new location.  Hopefully it was sill in business.  As it was rather cold, I put on my coat and began searching for a telephone. 

After walking about a block I saw an open shoe store.  I walked inside and asked if I could use their telephone book.  Unable to find a listing for the Barber College, I picked out the number of a local beauty salon, hoping they might tell me if the barber college was still in business.  The number was busy, so I decided to wait and try again in a few minutes.

“How about moving on down the road?” said the salesman, in a loud, harsh tone.  I turned to see if he was talking to me.  "Damn homeless guy always wanting to use our bathroom,” he continued.  I saw a poorly dressed man standing outside the store, gazing through the large plate-glass window.  The salesman motioned at the man, with his hand, in a backward motion, telling him move on down the street. 

Several more times I tried to dial the number, but it was continually busy.  “Like a cup of coffee?” the salesman asked me.  “That sounds great.  Thanks.”

As he and I stood talking the front door opened and a young man about twenty came into the store pushing himself in a wheelchair.  The salesman put down his coffee cup and walked toward the young man.  “I need a new pair of shoes,” said the customer.  As he turned the corner, there was a blanket across his lap.  I was shocked to see that the young man had no legs.

The salesman stood there having no idea what he should say.  “A gift for a friend?” I asked the boy.  “No,” he replied.  They are for me,” he continued, with a smile on his face.  I just smiled back and watched to see what would happen next.

“What type of shoe would you like?” asked the clerk.  “How ‘bout a pair of cowboy boots.  You got any cowboy boots in here?”  The man pointed to the back wall where three or four pairs of boots were displayed.  “Let me have a look-see at those black ones in a size 10.”  The salesman, sharply turning, headed off to the backroom.

“Isn’t this fun?” the boy asked me.  “You mean going into a shoe store, when you have no legs, and seeing the response?" I asked.  “Of course not,”  he replied.

I moved my hand to let him know that I did not understand his question.  “When I was a kid, my parents use to buy me a new pair of shoes every year.  That was such a wonderful feeling.  Something I have never forgotten.  The smell of the leather and the pride I felt when I walked around the store showing off my new shoes.”

The salesman came walking down the aisle with a large box.  He sat it down on the floor, took out a single boot and handed it to the young man.  The boy closed his eyes.  He placed the boot against his nose, tilted his head backwards and drew in a large breath.  I did not know what to say as tears began to fall on the young man’s cheeks.  “What type of accident did you have?” I asked him.  “Farm accident,” he said, as he tried to clear his voice.

"MOVE ON DOWN THE ROAD,” yelled the salesman, as he once again motioned his hand at the homeless fellow looking in the window.  The youngster looked at the old man and then turned to face me.  “Will you walk out there and see what size shoes that fellow wears?” he requested. 

Slowly, I walked to the front door opened it and asked the old man to come in.  “What size shoes do you wear?” the boy asked the man.  “I don’t know,” he replied, as he looked down at his old tennis shoes.  “I would say about a nine and a half,” I replied.  “What’s your best hiking boot in nine and a half,” the boy asked the clerk.  The salesman turned and once again walked to the back of the store.  The homeless fellow stood there looking down at the floor.

Within a minute, the clerk returned with a pair of hiking boots, the insides lined with wool.  The boy reached out, took the boot, placed it to his nose and drew in a large breath.  Once again, tears came to his eyes.  “Sir, would you mind trying on these boots for me,” the boy asked the old fellow, as he held out the boot.  The old man sat down, slid off his tennis shoes, using his feet, and took the boot.  The boy motioned for the clerk to aid him. The salesman slid his small, knee-high seat in front of the man and began tying the boot straps.

The old man’s eyes never left the floor the entire time.  After the boots were tied the young boy asked the gentleman if he would walk around so that he could see the boots at a distance.  “How do they feel?” he asked the man.  “They feel wonderful,” replied the man.  “I’ll take’m,” the young boy told the clerk.  “Those hiking boots are $189.00,” the clerk advised the boy.  The boy pulled out his wallet and handed the clerk two one-hundred dollar bills.

"Do you want the cowboy boots?” the salesman asked him.  “I don’t think so.”  “Do you have to use the bathroom?” I asked the old man.  He stood up and walked toward the back of the store.  The clerk motioned his head, giving him the okay.

“I see buying a new pair of shoes still gives you that good feeling you talked about,” I told the young man, as I smiled.  “Yes it does.” he said “And now I have someone, and their feet to share it with.” 

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Readers Comments

jane fortenberry wrote: My father in law lost both his legs due to poor circulation. As i read this my eyes filled with tears! We take life and simple things for granted everyday. If everyone had a heart and just a little of what this young man has, this world would be a lot better! God bless you!
sethi wrote: Thank you.
arunchikkop wrote: This story explains life is just far more beyond buying something. It's about the feeling that goes beyond it. The feeling of pride, honour, love, care and respect.

Thank you so much for the story
Diana Casarez wrote: My loving mother is also 85 yrs. Old, and recently had her second leg amputated. It has been difficult for her to accept reality but i truly know this story will help her, it has already helped me. Thank you
Norman wrote: Wow! Absolutely amazing. Thanks for the message, the timing couldn't have been better.
SALLY wrote: Wow! Thats tight! :):):):):):):):)
Debra wrote: My mother has no legs and at 85 she is busy enjoying life. She says each day she is glad she opens her eyes on the right side of the grass. A disability is an inconvenience in certain situations, but it is not necessarily a tragedy. This young man and my mother make a difference and make the world a better place. Volunteering is a way of life for her. She is a proud member of the waves. If you don't know what that is. Please look it up. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in english, thank a vet.

A proud daughter
bob wrote: Hi
madhur wrote: Very b'ful message - to fulfil our wishes by giving others what we would like for self.

I feel one with the feelings as i was unable to use my leg for 6 months. Instead of feeling jealous or depressed, this person choose the path of giving shoes to someone else n making him happy.

The best way to forget your own problem rather be happy in someone else's joy.

I m trying 2 practice this in my life.
MANU wrote: Thank you for a very touching story. Really a wonderful gift.

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