Giving away shoes teaches ‘grand’ lesson

From time to time the Church News receives correspondence that is suitable for publication in the writer's own words. Following are excerpts from a letter sent by Guy A. Irwin of Brentwood, Tenn., to Elder Gardner H. Russell of the Seventy after Elder Russell visited the Franklin Tennessee Stake for conference earlier this year. Elder Russell forwarded the letter to the Church News. Excerpts are reprinted with Brother Irwin's permission.Thank you so much for your visit to our recent stake conference. I'm not accustomed to writing General Authorities, but I wanted to let you know that your talks especially touched my heart and hopefully moved me to do more to further the work.

As you mentioned the experience on the late-night flight to Mexico City, I was particularly impressed with the thought of these "windows of opportunity" that come into our lives all the time to do some small thing for someone else.Few of us will ever have the opportunity to do big, "grand" things for mankind, but we all have the chance to do many so-called small things every day for an individual that then become "grand" to those we help.

Recently, while in my car leaving my office I was stopped two blocks away at a stop light. A man who appeared to be homeless walked across the crosswalk in front of me. I couldn't help but notice his shoes. Actually, the shoes were only a facade. As he approached, his toes were visible where the top of the shoe should have connected with the sole. As he walked away, even more visible were the bare bottoms of his feet as he tried to walk swiftly away, obviously struggling not to limp as he tried to walk as normal as possible.

My first thoughts were, I'm ashamed to say, those of amusement. But in my defense, I was recalling myself in times past putting cardboard inside my own shoes and desperately trying to dodge water puddles on rainy days. I drove away watching this poor young man limping down the street with his bare feet exposed to the rough, hard sidewalk surface.

I drove away but could not get the scene out of my mind. While turning onto the freeway, I thought of my closet full of shoes and about trying to decide which pair to wear. I looked down at my new walking shoes that were so comfortable. The next exit was more than a mile away, but I took it and drove back to try and see if I could help this man in some way.

A few minutes later I was back on the same street, and sure enough he was still walking. I looked again at his feet and in a quick glance determined that his shoe size would be very close to my own. I turned into a parking lot and stopped near the sidewalk, where he would have to walk right past me, untied my shoes, held them inside the car and as he walked past called to him, "Sir, may I see you for a minute?"

He hesitated briefly, not sure that I was calling to him. When he came over to the window of the car I said, "I couldn't help but notice your shoes."

He said, "Yeah, I've been doing a lot of walking lately."

I handed him my shoes through the car window. He asked, "What size are they?"

"Size 9," I said.

"That's my size," he said, and then offered a very sincere, "Mister, thanks a lot."

I don't think I will ever forget his face. As he walked away and as I drove away in my stocking feet, I felt a calm, peaceful feeling.