Back in 1983 or so, I traveled to Europe for the summer. I stayed with some German cousins of a different generation who could hardly speak English. I spent a lot of time napping and eating and trying to understand what they said about family gossip, politics and world news. My German vocabulary was not so good at the time.
They thought my habits were a bit uncivilized. I did not wash my feet before I went to bed, for instance. I also did not insist on opening windows to air things out. Worst of all, I let my shoes get scuffed up.
So, Cousin Alfred one day took me down to his workshop and showed me how to polish my shoes. The routine he taught me, in his booming, wonderful German voice went something like this:
- Wash the dirt of the shoes with a soft, clean cloth and let them dry
- Apply a high-quality polish in an appropriate color and let dry
- Buff to a polish with a cloth
- Buff to a higher level of polish with a brush
Then, "fertig" or ready, just like that (after sevral hours of washing, polishing and drying) y0u have perfectly polished shoes. Best of all, I can save money and time in sending them out. My method last longer and looks just as good as the shoe repair places.
Now, every time my shoes need to be polished (like now), I think of Alfred, his family and all the fun I had in wine country, in Italy, in Switzerland the summer I went to Europe and learned how to polish shoes. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to travel and to learn from people on my journey. I am grateful Alfred took me aside and spent the time to teach me something so useful. I hope I can one day have that kind of opportunity to teach a younger person something useful.