One could come up with a very long list describing everything that is wrong with the world. That isn’t my goal here. This post is a short introduction to a fine man who was completely different from me in his background, interests, politics, and probably religious views (although we rarely discussed politics or religion).
Wayne Clarke taught me more about tolerance and respecting and appreciating differences between people than anyone else at that point in my life. I think that if we only were able to solve one problem, improving tolerance for people with different views would go a very long way towards making the world a much better place.
Wayne had been a shoe repairman for most of his life. He worked as an employee for several years for Broadway Shoe Repair, the “big chain” shoe repair shop in Salt Lake City. He always wanted a shop of his own and decided to buy Tip Top Shoe Repair and Moccasin shop. Wayne did not have a lot of formal education, but he was incredibly talented, hard-working, trusting, and honest. You only need to look at my photo on a previous post to see just how trusting Wayne could be!
Although I now love and appreciate most types of music, at the time that I went to work for Wayne I really only had exposure to rock and roll and classical, which I always loved (but didn’t always admit it) because of my exposure through my parents. My mom played cello in the Utah Symphony for decades and my dad was an enthusiastic (and that is the end of list of descriptors…) amateur viola player who hosted friends for weekly string quartets at our house. Like everyone I knew at the time, I specifically hated country western.
Wayne loved country western music. His favorite song, very popular on CW stations at the time, was “Oh Lord Its Hard to be Humble” (don’t be fooled by the category “Classic Rock” that Grooveshark listed this song; it wasn’t…). Every time that song came on (it seemed like 2-3 times each day!), Wayne would turn off the noisy grinding machine, crank up the transistor radio hanging from a coat hanger in the corner of the shop, and sing every line with Mac Davis. He always did it with a smile on his face and clearly enjoyed every aspect of that song. Sometimes (and after I had been there for several months), I would join in from the side room with the patching machine, so if a customer happened to walk in at that moment, she would be greeted in full stereo!
I’m not sure how Wayne tolerated me. I was a long-haired, scraggly bearded, bicycle riding (didn’t have a driver’s license or any interest in driving a car), liberal, atheist, liberal arts college dropout, country western hating, son of a physician and professional musician, kid. And with all of that, he gave me the keys to his hard-earned shop after a week…