Harry's Shoe Box

for the week of June 12, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

Dr. Mack Craig tells the story of a man he knew several years ago named Harry. Harry was an elderly gentleman when they got acquainted. His family had emigrated to the United States from Russia prior to World War I to escape the harassment and persecution being suffered by the Jewish population there.

Harry enjoyed conversation, and he came to trust Mack. One day he asked a favor. "I need somebody to go through my things with me," he said. Their paths crossed with some frequency, and the request was made again and again.

Having put Harry off as long as he reasonably could about a task he didn't really yearn to perform, Mack finally agreed to help. He went to Harry's place with a secret fear that he might be in for hours of sorting through countless keepsakes accumulated over more than eight decades of living. So he was a bit taken aback when Harry brought out a single shoe box.

In the box were the following items: a picture of Harry's mother, his wife's death certificate, two picture postcards written to Harry by a cousin over 30 years before, and two yellowed newspaper clippings about projects that involved work done by Harry's building demolition company.

No gold or precious stones. No stock certificates. No award certificates or diplomas. Just simple mementos of life as Harry had experienced it.

So what are you putting in your shoe box? Oh, maybe you don't actually have one. Perhaps you use a desk drawer or scrap book. Or maybe you're just filing some things away in your heart. But you know what goes there. Though no one else would regard them as treasures, they are the keepsakes of your life.

Among other things, the old cigar box I got from my Dad's store has Santa letters from our kids, hand-made birthday coupons from my son, and a photo of my father's grave. They don't have value to anyone else. But you probably don't want to get me started telling you how important they are to me.

Harry's shoe box told the essential facts. Life ultimately reduces to those we have loved and who have loved us. And all of us want to feel good about what we've done with the time God gives us to spend on Planet Earth.

It's hard to value things properly when you're caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. As you go about your duties this week, think about Harry. And let his story remind you what ultimately will matter most about your own life.

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