I arrived at the Phoenix airport about 6:30 in the morning. Having time before my plane left, I looked around to see if there was a place where I could get my shoes shined.
Before long, I found a shoeshine stand. A woman in her mid to late forties sat in one of the customer chairs, absorbed in a paperback book.
The woman greeted me warmly. She was friendly and happynot always an easy way to be before the sun comes up, I thought. She got up, set down her book, first carefully folding over the corner of the page shed been reading, then took up the tools of her trade and pleasantly ushered me into the chair.
She went to work on my shoes, and we started talking.
The Beach Bum
I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My dad died when I was ten; I remember being handed the flag from his casket. My mom held everything together; she was a great, loving mom. But it was still a rough way to grow up: a fatherless, blond-headed kid in a Hispanic neighborhood, who didnt fit in. I really didnt know what to do with it all, so I turned my energy into mischief and misbehavior: I blamed everything and everyone.
In third grade, my teachers informed me that I had a low I.Q. I quickly gained a reputation for mischief and trouble making. While my mom worked her way through the years, I struggled my way through school. By age nineteen, it was clear to anyone who knew me that I didnt have much of a future.
Two Stories: The Water Hyacinth and The Choice
The water hyacinth is a beautiful, delicate-looking little plant. Prized as an ornament, it sports six-petaled flowers ranging from a lovely purplish blue, to lavender, to pink. You can find it floating on the surface of ponds in warm climates around the world.
The water hyacinth is also one of the most productive plants on earth; its reproductive rate astonishes botanists and ecologists. The method it prefers for colonizing a new area is to grow by doubling itself, sending out short runner stems that become daughter plants.
If a ponds surface is fairly still and undisturbed, the water hyacinth may cover the entire pond in thirty days.