EP003 Thank you, Mr. Shoe Cobbler

A small act of compassion and hope can go quite a long way indeed. 

Hello, welcome to my podcast. My name is Dee and I am The Introverted Advocate. The mission of my podcast is simply this – to create a kinder, more compassionate world through advocacy. I began advocating back in 2014 and I have a few stories I’d like to share. Advocating is like an adventure and it can be done from the comfort of your keyboard at home, or it could be an adventure of meeting new people, learning new skills, or finding out that the world is full of caring individuals who are ready to lend a hand or their heart when they see a need. I invite you to look around in your world and see who might need a little support and kindness. It could be one individual, it could be a group or a cause, it could be a community. Are you ready? All right, let’s get to it.

During this process of creating my new podcast, I recalled a memory from kindergarten.

It was the summer before my fifth birthday. My mom (who was 24) guided me across the downtown avenue into a small storefront.  As I recall from my child’s perspective, the small shop smelled strange.

And it was very quiet. I recall being a bit “wide-eyed” at the time. As I write these words, it is strange to have such a vivid reaction… I was such a little kid, yet I was very aware that something serious was taking place.

A gentleman greeted us at his high countertop. I could not see him well.

As mom described why we were there, the shoe cobbler walked around the counter to stand side by side with mom and me. His demeanor became serious and he looked directly at me for a long while.

Not sure what words were spoken, but I recall this entire scenario was intense.

Mr. Shoe Cobbler disappeared into his workshop and Mom and I were left quietly on a bench.

When the shoe cobbler emerged, he held a hand-crafted sling and a set of crutches – petite size, perhaps the shortest crutches ever. (I was small for my age. And I was not yet five)

You see, the doctor ordered crutches for me to use for the next few years.

Just that afternoon, across the street in the hospital, I had been diagnosed with Legg-Perthes disease. My left femur had begun to die from lack of oxygenated blood flow. The ball section of my leg that fit into my left hip had splintered and become an abnormal shape.

In order to let my body heal on its own, I was instructed to keep my left foot off the ground and under no circumstances apply pressure to my left hip.

Well, as it turns out, Mr. Shoe Cobbler’s son had the same disease. This gentleman offered to custom create a brace for me to wear over my shoulder and around my hip… this brace, or sling as we called it, had a loop for my left foot to rest comfortably in a bent position. This would help me remember not to put my left foot on the ground to walk or stand.

Let me stop right here to interject my recollection of this moment. When the shoe cobbler came to me to show me how to use the brace, I recall this feeling of …well, I guess you could call it “a moment.”

My mom, the shoe cobbler and I were having “a moment.” 

It turns out that, yes, small children pick up on the emotions of the adults around them. We all know this. But my recollection that has stayed with me for over 50 years proves this without a doubt.

So back to the moment when my new little crutches and new handcrafted sling —

The gravity of my situation was beginning to take hold. Yet, this kind gentleman was here to give us kindness, to give us a small gift, to give us hope.

I believe it was this gentleman’s compassion that floods my memory — and perhaps my young mom’s relief that she and I might survive the next two years.

Make no mistake.  I recall this rather surreal day. There were no tears. Just a quiet determination to handle the task at hand.

The shoe cobbler showed me how to use my two crutches. He helped me figure out how to put on the sling. Mom and I left the shoe cobbler’s store and we walked out into the darkness to go home.

Side note: As I wrote this story a few months ago, it dawned on me to email it to my mom.  I asked her if my memory was correct.  She wrote back, “almost.”

She wrote that we were there at his shop for hours. We had walked from the hospital directly to his shop… a prosthetic shop.

“Oooh,” I said, “so he was a very special shoe cobbler indeed.”

So Mr. Special Shoe Cobbler, this is for you. This podcast is my small way to say thank you.

I hope your son recovered as well as I did. And I want you to know, Mr. “Special” Shoe Cobbler, that your act of kindness and concern on my behalf… well, your kindness is here in my heart. Right here.

Also Mr. Special Shoe Cobbler, I am today actively using your compassion to advocate for others. You see how wonderful that works? Your heart to mine. And now mine to others.

What a gift. A small act of compassion goes quite a long way indeed. 

Well, this is all for now. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

This is Dee, The Introverted Advocate.