A hot summer in Barcelona. In the midday heat. The sole of my shoe was gone. I had no money for a new shoe. The time was limited. I need to go to a meeting. As you can see, it was desperate. The streets were lively with small cafés. I compulsorily sat down over there. I was full of thoughts. I was cursing at my luck.
Then, all of a sudden, a shoe shiner. It was like seeing one of the prophets. I was deep in the history. In 2001, in Spain, at 2:00 pm.
He had a small crate. Made of wood. Hand-made. Old. He approached. “Would you like me to shine it? He was speaking a proper English. It was a weird comfort to know that I was going to be able to tell him what I wanted.
He was an undersized man. His hands were covered with shoe polish. An old shoe on his feet. Shirt, trousers… Yet he was well-groomed as much as he could be. Through his eyes, it was possible to read the phrase “No worries, I got you!”. A joy in my soul. I was literally happy. I was at ease. Which was priceless.
“You’re a Godsend” I said. He couldn’t make much sense out of it. Looked at me for a moment. Then, with a smooth effect, he repeated his question. “Do you want it?”
I showed him the sole of my shoe. He took it, he was a handy man. It was obvious. He took a brief look. Then took out nails and a hammer from the countless drawers of the small crate he had. Unbelievable! He even found an anvil over there.
The sole of the shoe was in place after a short while. It was functional.
Nearly everyone passing by couldn’t help looking at us. Deep inside, I was feeling shy. I was saying that they were probably thinking “He makes the poor shoe shiner work like a slave!”. I was in a complex, the reason of which I didn’t know about. However, it wasn’t long before this idea was reversed.
Now, it was the payment time. He said “20 Euros!”. Now, I was the one to be felt sorry for. The shoe wasn’t even worth that much. I told this to the shoe shiner.
He said only one thing: “Labor!” Didn’t it mean “emek” in our language? He was so sure that he deserved it; it might have been possible to negotiate the price while buying a Ferrari, but it was not possible with this man.
Was I being overcharged, or getting a different but vital lesson? I was encountering a question, the effects of which lasted up to this day. I had to choose one of those. I chose the lesson.
I understood that those passing by were respectfully greeting the labor. With their gaze…These good manners were obviously not easy to have.
Around this place, workers were telling about similar or even higher prices, but it was like there was a voice that kept saying “Are you worth that much?” It’s all about psychological matters. Those passing by were whispering “You are valuable” to the ears of that shoe shiner in Barcelona…
All in all, while those who don’t know the value of the job they do are on the way to depression, the Spanish shoe shiner was living happily like he was Santa Clause.
This matter of “knowing the value” might as well start in our own minds as soon as possible. Of course, by paying attention to the thin line between knowing the value and overcharging. Without turning a psychopath over the matter… Without taking it to the level of capital hostility…. By keeping in mind that labor is money, and money is labor.