While I was an anchor at CNN, the former chairman recommended that I start each day in Atlanta with a visit to Dr. Shine. Dr. Shine owned the shoeshine stand at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. Heads of state and heads of industry had visited Dr. Shine frequently, and for good reason. He offered far more than a second life for old shoes. He made sure you began the day on the right foot -- literally and figuratively. He could speak on any topic -- from local to world events -- but mostly, he talked about life and what made it special.
When I recently visited Atlanta after a 10-year absence, I stopped by to see the good doctor. There was his stand, in the lobby of the now remodeled Omni, but something was missing: The doctor was gone. As I approached the stand, an attractive woman with short, graying hair greeted me.
"You look really handsome. I like your choice of shirt and tie. Did you pick that out or did your wife?"
"I did," I said with some pride, "but my wife approved it."
Patricia was well-dressed despite declaring that it was "casual," Friday and I soon learned that she was Dr. Shine's widow. He had passed away suddenly eight years ago at the young age of 51. She had initially wanted to close the shoeshine stand, but she said that God had different plans for her. It turns out that one of her sons is a preacher and the other is a teacher. It seemed that Patricia was a bit of both. Our discussion quickly turned to our families, and we shared stories of our children, who, for each of us, are a source of joy.
"I thought I was going to lead a glamorous life," she said with a smile. "Some people look down on me when they see me shining shoes, but that doesn't bother me. We are all the same. I am an antiques dealer and I was a nurse. I am doing this because I am supposed to."
It didn't take long before I realized that Patricia had found what eludes so many of us -- a sense of purpose and a sense of peace. I found myself a bit sad when my shoes were done. I looked down, and they were gleaming. I, too, had been reinvigorated during my brief time with this charming woman. Even though Patricia was self-taught, I knew that somewhere above, Dr. Shine was looking down, smiling. His ministry was continuing, tending to the sole and mending the soul.
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