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Shoe Shine Boy: a faith based Christmas story from the Story Powerline
12/4/2020 4:00:00 AM by: Ruben Fierro as told to Maria Luisa Navarro

I remember the Christmas of 1947 like it was yesterday. I was ten years old and living with Mama in a tiny converted garage in East Los Angeles. Although Mama worked 40 to 50 hours a week as a seamstress in a factory, she only earned about $12 per week. As the “man’’ of the house, I sold newspapers, carried grocery bags for viejitas and shined shoes to help out. Mama never complained about the little we had. She made every holiday special because she filled that little garage with love and laughter.

When Christmas Eve came, you would never have known it at our home. No tree, no presents, no goodies. Suddenly I thought, If I could just go downtown to work for a few hours, I know something good will happen. I begged and pleaded with Mama to let me go with my buddy.

“No mi’jito, what if something were to happen to you?’’

I promised that I would be extra careful and that I would be home before midnight.

Finally after much masterful persuasion, Mama consented.

My buddy and I took the trolley and arrived at the big dance hall downtown at 7 p.m. There were no other shoe shine boys around! Business was jumping. My pal and I didn’t stop for a moment’s rest.

Suddenly I thought to ask about the time. It was 11:15 at night, and I needed to rush home. In the trolley, my friend and I were filled with pride as we counted our money -- more dollar bills than our eyes had ever beheld at one time.

When we got off the trolley, I raced to the neighborhood store. It was closed, but right there in the window was a beautiful glass jar filled with fancy soaps. Every time I passed I would say, “Someday I’ll buy that for Mama.’’ Tonight was the night. I knocked on the door, explaining to the old Jewish shopkeeper that I had to have that jar. Seeing my desperation, he opened the door and let me make my purchase.

My next stop was the Christmas tree lot on the next block. I asked the owner how much a tree would cost, and to my surprise, he said I could take any tree I wanted. Naturally, I chose the biggest one on the lot – an eight footer! Here I was, a small 10-year-old, dragging an eight foot tree with one hand, soap jar and shoe shine box in the other, and a grin from ear to ear.

Mama was waiting for me when I got to the door. I handed her all the treasures, including the roll of dollar bills which eventually paid for two months’ rent. All Mama could do was put her arms around me and cry.

Mama died many years ago, but I can still remember her telling the story about Christmas 1947. She cried every time.

The first Christmas

The first Christmas, when Jesus was born, was also a time of waiting, working, traveling, and great joy: “When the wise men saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh’’ (Matt 2:10-11).

Today’s prayer

Loving God, thank You for allowing us to experience the joy of giving, and thank you most of all for your precious gift to us – Jesus. Amen.

 

© 1998 Ruben Fierro and Maria Luisa Navarro

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