©2000 Mollie Pearce McKibbon
I was busy at work on my bench one day,
My leather and tools all around me lay,
When a weathered centurion ventured in
With a pair of sandals, shabby and thin.
“Repair these, cobbler, you have one day”
When I disagreed, he said he would pay
A week’s soldier’s wages if he could be sure
That they would be ready in one day, not more.
I nodded my head; it was too much to pass,
Everything else I would take off my last.
He sighed in relief and left in a hurry.
I shrugged as I pondered his manner so surly.
What possible use would he have for such shoes,
Ragged and scuffed from miles of abuse?
I considered their obvious poverty state-
Nothing a Roman would value; third rate.
A week’s soldier’s wages was a very high cost
For something most likely a servant had lost.
It was late and the shadows were filling my shop.
I had promised my wife, before dinner I’d stop.
As I placed the sandals above on a shelf,
Something inside me prevented myself.
I wrapped up the sandals, unmended and worn,
And carried them home with me until morn.
I laid them carefully by my bed for the night
And slept without stirring, no dreams of great fright.
When I woke, my wife asked me why I was giving such care,
To something only a beggar would wear.
I couldn’t explain it and she shook her head,
“They’re not made of gold or silver,” she said.
“They’re worth a soldier’s salary here in my hand”.
Money was something that she’d understand.
But her face turned pale and she recited a verse
From the Torah, and shivered,”Perhaps they are cursed.”
“Such shouting we heard in the street yesterday,”
Remember how Romans make everyone pay.
Oh Husband, dear Husband, take care what you do.
Your good reputation may depend on those shoes.”
In spite of her fears, I wrapped them up tight,
And carried them back to my shop at first light.
I recovered the soles and strengthened each thong.
As I worked on the leather, my heart filled with song.
If a week’s wages purchased my cobbler’s good name,
What more could I garner, what more could I gain?
When the centurion returned, his wages in hand,
I wouldn’t accept the price that he planned.
He paused and considered, a moment not more,
Then turned on his heels and went out the door.
All day I was angry at my foolish thought;
The sandals were mended, but what had I got?
That evening the soldier returned once again,
His gaze it appraised me and he grasped my hand.
He said in a whisper, with tears on his face,
“I have no more money, no way to erase
The pain that I caused an innocent man,
On Friday I hammered the spikes in his hand,
And as He hung there, high on the cross,
I won these sandals with dice that we tossed.
I haven’t slept since that horrible day,
Yet, somehow, I just couldn’t throw them away.
As he urgently spoke of his horror and grief,
I remembered the look on the face of a thief
Who passed by my open shop door on the way
To his execution, to die that same day.
I recalled this same soldier was part of the mob
That marched in the legion in charge of the job.
He paused and I muttered, “No blood money, please,
I saw what you did when He fell to his knees.
I saw His raw back and the blood running down
From the thorns on His head they’d made into a crown.
No money you’d pay me would ever reverse,
My greed and your torture; we both will be cursed.”
The soldier, a veteran, as his grave scars attested,
With a sob in his voice, earnestly protested.
“Yes, we’re both sinners, that can’t be denied.
I witnessed his agony and watched while He died.
No amount you demand, nor could I afford,
Would pay for the sandals worn by my Lord,
But Cobbler, I tell you, we both are forgiven,
These sandals are needed because He has risen!”