The Other Shoe

Wherever we walked through old Quito we were swarmed by very young unsmiling children desperate to sell trinkets or to shine a shoe or two to get a little cash. These kids were sweet (mostly), unwashed, and very persistent. When we spotted the hardened young adult pressuring them to sell more, we understood their twin desperation of poverty and safety.

The Other Shoe

The gently aggressive shoe shiners were the equivalent of unwanted windshield washers for pedestrians. When one of the youngest shoe shiners pleaded with Cheryl to accept a shine, she turned the tables on this adorable boy and offered to shine his filthy shoes —  and pay him to do it. He couldn’t have been more than four years old. No one had ever shined his shoes before. As Cheryl sat on the ground at his feet, and lifted his tiny shoe onto the box to shine, his face lit up. Swarms of young shoe shiners surrounded them, smiling, laughing — a moment of joy in a long work day. To be noticed, to be treated as an equal, to be pampered — if only for a moment — was a special gift, easy to give, that will be long-remembered by that crowd of kids and by all of us adults who were touched by Cheryl’s simple act of kindness.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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