Tom's Tales: Shiny Shoe Kids

This edition of our FTF blog is a part of something we call Tom’s Tales. Tom works for us in Guatemala. We find his writing quirky, and fun and inviting. We’ve decided to share it with you as a type of serialized adventure: Short snippets of life that we call Tom’s Tales.


One day I was enjoying myself in the market and in order to stay and watch I allowed a young boy to shine my shoes. Now, there are hoards if these stinkers running around and hustling for work and I’ve usually seen them as annoyances. However, this day, I let this kid work on my boots. His hands were covered black and his backpack and clothes were tattered. I watched as the other shoe kids ran around hustling anyone who had shoes. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of families these boys come from and how maybe at ten years old they’d rather be doing something else. One boy bought a small bread, and clasped his snack in his oily hands. The boy finished my shoes and charged me about 20 cents for the 10-minute job. I paid him double. Some charge only 10 cents and at the time I felt sadness about the poverty here.

That sadness got to me a little. It’s the hardest part of my job sometimes.