They say that when a tiger dies it leaves its leather, but when a people die they leave a legacy (their name). I regard that as the remnant of a life well lived. The reason why there is such an emptiness when a person passes away is precisely because of that remnant of a life well lived. When I think about our congregants that passed on before us, I still fully miss them as their legacy is left behind and remembered.
I do not know if it is because I am a professional speaker in front of an audience, but everyone has their own perspective on how they view me. There are those that view my clothes. There are those gazing to see if my suit and necktie match well. There are hairstylists looking at my hair to see if I combed it well. A glasses store owner would look to see if I am sporting the new trend. Doctors may look upon my complexion and give me a mental check-up in their heads. Additionally, a shoemaker may look at my shoes and see if I have been up keeping their shine.
Annually, I have a few opportunities to go to downtown Los Angeles to give a lecture. At those times, I like to leave my dress shoes at a shoemakers’ for repairs. It is to prevent the wear and tear by supplementing rubber to the heel of the shoes. It is a fairly simple procedure so it left room for me to ask the shoemaker a question. “Sir, how long have you been operating this store?” I asked. He answered, “Well, I started since I immigrated, so about twenty years.” “That is quite a long time. Sir, are you able to tell what kind of profession a person has by just looking at their shoes?” I asked again. He replied, “To a certain degree, yes.” “I see,” I said. I am sure he felt dumbfounded by such an odd line of questioning, and after a momentary pause he started to speak again. “Shoes have character, you know. Just like you would care for a pet at home, it is easy to see how the owner may have treated a pair of shoes.” As soon as I heard those words, strangely, feelings of guilt pricked at my heart as I remembered never polishing my shoes and resorting to perhaps getting them polished once or twice a year as I wait for a connecting flight. As he was removing the old rubber from my shoes’ heels and attaching new ones, I asked him again, “Everyone has wear and tear on the outside like me, right?” “It’s different for everyone. Some are inside, some are outside and some are even in the front without any damage to the heel,” he cheerfully replied.
It seems as though the twenty or so years of being a shoemaker enabled him to have the know-how to evaluate the character of people. Later on when I will have no reason to wear shoes, the shoes that I leave behind will display my character. I had better shine up those shoes real nice and walk carefully in a manner where the shoes can get worn out with character. I wonder what footprints my shoes will leave behind… Today is a day where the words of Reverend George Whitfield continue to come to mind. “I would rather wear out than rust out.”
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.