by Ralph Raffio
“It was on Christmas Day and I was around 16. I’d stopped in on some aunts and uncles and while walking back to our apartment noticed a very familiar sight: this neighborhood guy named Rudy trying to get a passerby to tie his shoelaces for him.
“That’s got to sound strange. Maybe I should explain.
“You see, Rudy was a cripple. He’d had polio as a boy. His spine was bent and both hands curved inwards and to his wrists; this meant that, among other things, the man could not tie his own shoelaces.
“That task fell to those of us around him. If you were a neighborhood boy or girl, man or woman, butcher, barber or even plumber, and took serious the concept of community, then tying Rudy’s shoelaces was one of your jobs. You know, like helping one of the old ladies get across the street or keeping a little kid from running out in front of a city bus.
“I got down on my knees and helped the guy plenty of times. At first, when I was really little, it seemed funny, even kind of creepy. But as I got older, I began to not mind it so much. In fact, I learned a lot about compassion and humility just by kneeling in front of Rudy.”
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