I had gone through so many shoes in the months I studied in Rome, not just the regular wear to expect from the walking in a walker-friendly city every day. My summer sandals literally lost the soles. Leather along the heels ripped. Toes of my boots came unglued. My feet, like you might guess, took a beating, too, blistering and aching some days, or even better, swelling or soaked in the rain when the shoes failed me. What was a student to do with such a basic need such as shoes and what with the income of a student?
The last incident that brought me to take a different course of action had to do with my boots, the black ones that are just slightly raised, but not with a high heel. Both toes came unglued and let in water. The rubber on the soles wore down only after about a month of wearing them. So, as those were pretty much the only shoes I could wear for work at the time, I decided I had to go back to the store on Via Nazionale where I bought them. It came time to talk to the man who sold them to me.
From what I could tell the first time I went in, he must have been the owner of the place. Everyone ran transactions past him, and he checked on all of his staff when they needed help or better judgment when speaking with customers. He wore a blue suit and had an honest face. After my deep disappointment, I walked in as other customers were leaving. After saying hello, I told him, "I have a problem." I told him about the month I had worn them, about the soles and their toes, and that I thought since the product was flawed (in that they should not be falling apart after a month) that they should be fixed. He first offered to fix the toes for free and charge me ten euro for the heel repair as the soles were very worn from all of the walking on cobblestone, but then after a moment, he agreed to fix both toes and the heels for free. He looked at the product he sold and claimed they would be ready for pick up before lunch the following day.
I arrived just after noon the next day and he had them ready within 20 minutes.
A student or anyone else living on a modest budget may wonder where the mercy and justice are in the small stuff of life. In the daily, sometimes banal struggles, there must be a place where one asks for more than things to go as he wants or expects. When I started asking for more I found that there is an answer to these questions like "what does the shoe salesman owe me?" or "what is reasonable to ask of him?" or "what do I really offer that man besides the cash I present to him in payment for the boots?" I began to communicate my thankfulness. "Everyone I know who passes by this store looking for shoes I will send to you," I expressed. Even when my expectations are not met he gave me reason to trust that if he cared to stand behind his sale for me, he would do the same again for others. The shoe salesman happened to be the one to respond to me in justice. But even if he had not stood behind his store, his product, and his reputation, I was able to ask the question.
I expected all of my shoes in that period to last longer. I expected I would not find a way to have a decent pair to get me through to the next tutoring paycheck. There are worse things, but no matter what all can go wrong, there is someone like that who can bring us to ask again what needs we have and how we have a sort of responsibility for each other's needs.
He knew I would not be in the city much longer. He knew there was not much business lost if he sent me away to find another who would charge me for the problems. However, somehow he knew justice and mercy, and he lives for more than mere minimum of customer service.
Living life that way is obviously the way that is most human, the way I wish to live.
Since then, it cannot just be a matter of finding a way to avoid evil, the inconvenient, or painful things that come about for me. It is surely asking for, accepting and doing what is evidently taking the needs of each person into account.