When a Man in a Shoe Store Thanked Me for Inspiring Him


Years ago I worked at a shoe store.

It was a full-service store where we helped every customer find the perfect shoe for their needs. Sometimes this meant taking down and stacking boxes of shoes up to your eyeballs. We’d sit the customer down and have them try the shoes on, then ask them to walk or run around to see how they felt, oftentimes even tying the shoes for the customer.

Not until years after the fact did I ever think about how my customers must have felt when I, a guy with only one hand, tied their shoes for them.

One afternoon as I was stocking our shelves, I had that feeling. You know that feeling when you can sense that someone is behind you. Well, eventually I saw him. He was much older than me, probably in his early 60s. He looked nervous, almost scared.

At some point, I approached him and asked how I could help. I’ll never forget his response.

“I’m actually on my way to a job interview and I stopped in here to try and calm down,” he said. “I’m incredibly nervous. You see, I have a bad foot and it makes me very insecure. Even though I know you can’t see it and that nobody will notice it unless I tell them about it, I know it’s there and it makes me feel like a loser. I just wanted to tell you … I’ve been watching you for a while now and you’ve inspired me to go to the interview and do my best. You’ve been helping people confidently and you’ve been doing all of your other tasks without even thinking about your arm, it seems like. I’m envious of your confidence, honestly! So, thank you.”

I just stood there, stunned. I hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary. I’d just been doing the same things I did every day. I was just doing my job.

That gentleman was encouraged by me that day, but really, he gave me a gift, too. He taught me we don’t have to do extraordinary things to make an extraordinary difference in the world. You never know who you’ll inspire just by being you.

We ended up having a great conversation, and I encouraged him the best I could to give it everything he had at that interview. To be confident. To focus on his strengths and to let them know why he was the best person for the job.

If this were a storybook, I’d tell you that he stopped in a couple weeks later to tell me he got the job. But, it’s not and he didn’t. And that’s OK. Because that’s life. We have a moment and then we move on.

I was happy he was able to learn something from me that day, but I’m even more grateful for the lesson he taught me.

Ryan Haack the mighty.2-001

Follow this journey on Living One Handed.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

This Woman Is Empowering Kids With Special Needs With Superhero Capes

In August 2012, Robyn Rosenberger thought it would be fun to sew a superhero cape for her nephew for his birthday. She’d never made a cape before and it was her first sewing project, but she enjoyed it and continued to make capes for her son, her dog and her friends’ children that same year. During this time, [...]

Dad Creates Superheroes Who Use Their Disabilities as Superpowers

Dan White couldn’t find a character anywhere in the media that his daughter Emily, who uses a wheelchair, could relate to. Emily was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine and nerves. White eventually noticed there were some characters in wheelchairs, but he none who he felt really showcased disabilities in a way children of [...]

How ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Helped a Little Boy With Dyspraxia

We never know the full scale of how what we do can impact the lives of others. James Gunn, known most famously as the writer and director of the 2014 film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” was touched by a post a fan recently shared on his Facebook wall. This month marks one year since the [...]

When a Little Girl Asked Why My Son Can’t Talk Like Her

I can’t tell you how often I hear, “Don’t compare your child to others.” I’m also guilty of telling other parents and friends this same thing. But I’ve never really believed it. We naturally compare our kids to others. We compare ourselves to others. We compare our families to other families. And I don’t think we [...]