I had mixed emotions reading C.W. Nevius’ blog post at SF Gate on Tuesday. On the one hand it was so disheartening to read that “Larry the shoeshine guy,” about whom Nevius had written several inspirational columns, seemed to have fallen again on difficult times. Then again, I was glad to hear that Larry was still alive. Like many other San Franciscans, I had been moved by the columns about Larry and made efforts to help him by patronizing his shoeshine stand and, later, contributing to a fund established to help him through a very bad medical situation. After not hearing about Larry for about a year, I thought he might have passed away.
Then yesterday my wife called to say she had seen Larry back on his corner shining shoes. My shoes were looking a little scruffy so I went to see him. Sure enough, there he is, back on Market and New Montgomery in his customary dress shirt and tie, open for business again. Now this is good news and bad news. It’s good to see him back, with his up-beat attitude, fighting the good fight against his problems and trying to make a living. The bad news is that he’s only back where he started and whatever caused the setback he may have suffered is an ever-present threat to cast him into even greater desperation.
Everyone makes mistakes, has lapses in judgment. For most, such errors usually result in little more than inconvenience. For those in extreme poverty however, the consequences of bad choices, bad luck, changes in economic circumstances out of one’s control, are literally life threatening.
Larry’s back but he needs help. He needs business and he needs encouragement. Let's not give up on him.