For the last 25 years, a 64-year-old shoeshine man who earns $10,000 a year, gets up at 5 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays and takes two buses to get to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh where he sets up his shoeshine box. Mr. Albert Lexie charges three dollars for the shine, and he puts the tips into canisters that say “Help Albert’s Kid’s.”
Mr. Lexie began his charitable work in 1981 when he watched a telethon supporting the hospital’s needy kids. He donated his life’s savings of $750, and afterward started giving his tips to the Free Care Fund. Albert was not raised in an affluent family; as a matter of fact, he grew up poor with three siblings who were raised by a single mother in a public housing project. He was a slow learner who attended special-ed classes where he learned to read and write. When he was about 15, he built his own shoe shine box in a shop class. He decided that’s what he wanted to do and dropped out of school after eighth grade.
When his mother died in 1978, he moved into a one-bedroom apartment where he still lives. He attends services every Sunday at the Riverside Tabernacle Church where he likes to sing gospel music and sometimes does solos.
Albert recently reached the $100,000 mark in his contributions, and the hospital celebrated the occasion by throwing a party. Doctors, nurses, staff and friends from all over Pittsburgh were on hand for the gala at which they unveiled a plaque with his picture and the words “Congratulations Albert, Shining for Kids $100,000 and growing.” When Albert spoke, he said he appreciated the doctors, nurses and the staff for all their good work, and he thanked all of his good customers. He told the audience he didn’t do anything special — he was doing God’s work and he loved the kids. Albert was also honored last month with a National Caring Award as a servant-leader for his dedication, hard work and passion for making life better for others.
We don’t wash the feet of others much anymore, but there are still some who kneel at the feet of society and remind us how we can transcend our humblest beginnings to work miracles. A shoeshine saint at Christmas.