I’m really rough on shoes. Okay, that’s an understatement – I’m basically shoezilla breathing down fire and destruction on the Tokyo world of shoe laces and stitched leather. Between the facts that my feet sweat a lot, I incessantly tap my foot to some rhythm in my head, and find myself running or speedily walking in some capacity every day, my shoes simply don’t seem to last very long. On top of that, whenever I play sports, my middle toe has decided that it needs to stand up and be heard and hence exerts so much upward force on the top of the shoe that all my athletic shoes (and I do mean all, I’m batting 1000 on this one) have a tear or hole in the top of them.
Enter my favorite pair of Asics running shoes. Unfortunately, the same fate befell them that all my athletic shoes endure. Accordingly, back in July I got them repaired at Lacock’s Shoe Store. For a mere $10.00, patches were glued to the inside that provided a buffer against my feisty feet. However, after a trip to the UK and several more months of attacks from my big toes, the patches had fallen off. Since these were my favorite shoes, I took them back to Lacock’s this past week to get them repaired again.
I explained my situation to David, the owner and sole operator (no pun intended), and with a knowing smile he took my shoes and patches, disappeared to the back room, and began to work.
Amidst the whir and hum of machinery coming from the back, I began to study the walls of the store. It was littered with old pictures and articles about the news of Chapel Hill. However, interspersed with these were articles and awards praising Lacock’s Shoe Store. There was an editorial that mentioned that the owner had been repairing shoes in Chapel Hill for over 30 years.
While I was still soaking in the nostalgia of this place, David reemerged with my shoes in hand and a smile on his face. I saw that the sound I had heard had been of a sewing machine; both patches were now sewn into place with the careful stitching of a master craftsman. Happy to see my prized possession restored, I smiled and asked David:
“No charge.” He said, as his deep voice rang with a slight raspyness of something worn, aged – yet also with a kindness and smoothness to it like a stone that’s been worn smooth by many years in a river.
“Are you sure?” I replied, fully prepared to pay for the repair since I thought it was additional use from my shoe-destroying feet that undid his original work.
“Yes.” He said, with a smile on his face.
I walked out the door utterly delighted and totally moved by what seemed like such a small act of kindness. As I sat in my car, I tried to think why I felt so moved by this. Then it hit me; what made this so moving and so poignant is that David had kept his word.
See way back in July when I first brought my shoes to David, he had told me that he would patch up my shoes for ten dollars. When I brought my shoes to him a second time, he recognized me, the pair of shoes, and the patches he had placed on them before. He didn’t see this as a new job or a second repair – he saw this as finishing the work he had already said he would do.
The more I thought about, the more I realized how often we encounter scenarios where people don’t keep their word. Someone says they’ll give you a callback later today, but they don’t; someone says they’ll put the toilet seat down, but you walk in to find it up repeatedly; someone says they’ll meet you some place at 7 pm, it’s 7:20 before they show up (I’m particularly guilty of this one).
It’s as if blinders have been pulled over our eyes and we’ve lost sight of the value of our word and what it means to give it to someone.
Amidst a sea of such falsities, to encounter someone who kept his word, even when it cost him, was utterly stunning. In fact, what I realized had happened is I had tasted an element of the divine through this because God always keeps his word – no matter the cost to himself.
In Jeremiah 31, God says he will make a new covenant with his people and then in verse 34 says “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” In order to do that, God knew that someone would have to pay for the sins of the world in order for him to forgive them. So he sent his son Jesus who was “delivered up for our trespasses” (Romans 4:25) to pay that debt. Even though it cost God the highest price imaginable, his own son, he still kept his word.
Looking back, I would have happily parted with another ten dollars to have my prized tennis shoes repaired. However, in foregoing that payment David captured something of mine far more rare and valuable: my trust.