My Old Nasty Shoes
A few nights ago, I posted this status on my Facebook profile;
“Truly, one Man’s trash is another Man’s treasure. It only matters which perspective you choose to see. Live with open hands.”
I was asked to share what I was referring to, but I didn’t feel comfortable just yet. I was still processing an encounter I had only a few minutes earlier that will probably change my life forever. It seems I could have made this story up, it’s cliché in its nature. In fact, I’ve heard stories like this many times- but this time it happened to me, and I would like to share it with you.
My typical Sunday evenings consist of basketball, around 5:30pm my friends and I will undoubtedly all show up at a local church downtown and hoop it up. Last week was no different- friends, free-throws, teams and ‘winner stays.’ Sometime during the course of our games I noticed a gentleman wander in. This is not uncommon, there’s always a wide assortment of people that come. Some play, some watch. Later in the evening, the number of guys dwindled down to only enough to play on one court. As that happened, this gentleman in his mid to late 50′s came over to our side to watch. He wasn’t loud, or obnoxious- he just watched.
Now, if you’re not used to playing pick-up basketball, there’s always a moment towards the end of the night where you realize that you’re done and have no business still playing. It’s usually the game that the guy you’re guarding blows past your ‘defense,’ and you’ve missed several lay-ups. I’m not saying that happened, but I’m not saying it didn’t. I was done.
The guys started another game and I was still removing my shoes, putting on my other shirt and cooling down. Before I knew it, the gentleman that wandered in earlier was right next to me.
“Those are some nice shoes!” he said.
“Thanks!” I said.
“I really like those shoes!” he said as he picked them up to look at them.
That’s when it hit me- he wants my shoes. Now let me give you some background on these shoes- they were nice, 10 months ago. Before I wore them three times a week, barely letting them dry before sweating another 8oz. mason jar of sweat into them again. Before cutting to the hoop so much that the outside of both shoes started splitting out, and before staining them with blood from my heels. My wife, Niki, doesn’t even want me to bring them inside- I have to leave my bag in the garage. My dog, Elway, wont even go within 10 feet of them. One time, a guy got knocked out when we were playing and I took my shoe off and stuck it in his face to act as a smelling salt- boom, he was good as new. Do you catch my drift? They were a mess.
Right after he put them down again, he picked them back up. “Those are some nice shoes, what size are you?”
“I think they’re 11′s” I said, trying to figure out how to handle this conversation. He held them up to his feet, now making it obvious of his hopes. I picked them up and showed him all the tears in the material, the tred that was missing, and the frayed edges of the ankle section. He looked at me as if I were crazy.
“Well, I can’t give them to you. Otherwise what am I gonna wear when I play?” I said to him, half smiling. Bogus. Total bogus, and I knew it the second it left my lips. In fact, for weeks and weeks, I’ve been talking about getting new ones. I just told a man (who very well may be homeless) that if I give him my basketball shoes, I may not have shoes to play basketball (a meaningless game) anymore. Then I was going to get into my Jeep Cherokee (that I don’t deserve), drive to my 2-story house in the suburbs (that I don’t deserve), kiss my wife (Whom we all know- I don’t deserve), and watch Sportscenter on my 46″ flatscreen, fed by a satellite (which I only justified deserving). Total. Complete. Unfiltered. Ridiculous. Bogus.
A lot of things went through my mind in those seconds. As he put the shoes back in my bag for me, as if to not badger me anymore, I thought about what I’ve been learning about generosity. I also thought about scripture where Jesus commands us to help the needy, and if we’re asked for our shoes, to also give them our tunic as well (which I seem to have forgotten). I thought about our church, and how one of our main core values is to be a generous church. I thought about what I’ve been telling my friends about getting new shoes. Why is this a big deal to me? It wasn’t because I couldn’t afford new shoes, it was because I was so embarrassed by my nasty shoes. I would much rather buy him a new pair, than give him these things. Seriously, my dog wont even go near them! It didn’t seem to matter to him. I then had a revelation: Generosity isn’t only about giving new things, its about giving what’s needed, when it’s needed.
I stood up, he was trying to zip up my bag for me. I took the shoes out, still sweaty and nasty, and said, “Do you really want these shoes?” That’s when I looked him in the eye for the first time. I don’t have kids, but I imagine this is the same look kids give to their parents and grandparents when they are so hopeful to have what they’ve asked for. They were clear, wide, hopeful eyes. They were his. I shook his hand and apologized as I walked away for how nasty they were- I doubt he even heard me. I left. As I was telling my wife about my encounter, my friend Austin (who saw enough of what was going on as he was playing) sent me a text. He said the man put on the shoes right away, and was so proud of them.
I’m a person of faith, so much of my decision was based on trying to live my life the way Jesus would. But let’s put faith aside for just a second if you’re not into that. The truth is; no matter what you believe, generosity makes us better people, and better as a people. Some are generous with money, others with time, others with the talents they posses. Generosity impacts the giver AND the receiver in powerful ways. In fact, I would suggest that if we did this more often, we wouldn’t need our government programs or assistance.
I’m challenging you to look for a way to be generous this week. Go out of your way to find it. Be intentional about finding it. Most likely, you wont have to look very hard or long. There’s obviously an opportunity to be generous here, but there are several ways. If you’d like to help combat human sex trafficking, you can help my friend Sam at The Move Project. Help build fresh water wells here. Help my friend, Joy, raise money to combat Alzheimer’s. If you want to assist the homeless, you can help my friends at Hope Ministries, or find a similar non-profit in your local city. You can buy TOM shoes (or glasses), for every pair sold- they give a pair to a child in need. You can help my church raise $5,000 do completely pay for a house in Mexico for a family (that’s right- $5,000 buys all the material, and we’re heading down in a couple weeks to supply the labor). You can volunteer or donate to the Des Moines Dream Center, or find a similar non-profit in your local city. I just launched a new website that I built with a great team that allows you to help start new churches, build wells in India, or support Missionaries preaching the Gospel of Jesus! Or you can become part of a Hope Mob. If you want to give generously, but can’t right now, see my friends at Free to Serve, they exist to help people get to a place where they can be generous financially.
I don’t write this for attention, only to bring attention to what I’ve learned. This post has very little to do with mosquito nets, but the mosquito nets are only half of my aim with this project. In addition to protecting kids from Malaria, I want to encourage people to be generous with their resources. I started the blog section of this site to share the stories behind the stories, and give insight to my journey. I’m not looking for comments, accolades, or praise- in fact, I’d feel more comfortable if you didn’t. Remember your challenge this week, then do it again next week, and the week after. Start with something small, and watch how big the impact is.
Live with open hands.
Leave a Reply
Leave a Reply
Special Thanks to Jason Bradley for helping us out with getting these Birthday Heros Stories shared.