My maternal grandparents had a book of Life photographs that I would look through before falling asleep over the many weekends that I stayed there as a child. I had the luxury of having grandparents who lived around the block from me, so I spent a lot of time there -- for which I'm very thankful.
One of my favorite photos and one that's stayed with me all these years was of a boy in an orphanage joyfully hugging a brand new pair of shoes. I remember them being described as his first brand new pair of shoes, but that may be a childhood embellishment. I was probably about his age when I first saw the photo and maybe that's why it stuck with me.
Once the internet was invented (Thanks, Al Gore) and I realized it could be used to track down childhood memories both serious and silly, I began searching for it to no avail. Type "orphanage boy new shoes" into a search engine and you get a disturbing number of matches. I didn't know where it was taken or when or by whom. Eventually, Time-Life introduced a website of their photos, but still, I was unable to find it.
And then this summer a friend randomly posted a link on Facebook to 40 Must-See Photos from the Past. I love old photos, so I took a look. And as I scrolled on through, not expecting anything in particular, there he was. I couldn't believe it. I hadn't seen him in 30 years.
"Austrian Boy with New Shoes During WWII"
After very little research, I learned the photo is really entitled, simply, "New Shoes," and it was photographed/published by Gerald Waller, in 1946-47. I found a description that said, "Six-year-old Austrian boy 'Werfel' receiving a new pair of shoes at the Am Himmel orphanage, donated by the Junior Red Cross in America."
How much do you love him?
Remember Werfel the next time you "need" something. And whether your possessions are frivolous or necessary or a combination of the two, try to be thankful. Remember Werfel's old shoes and his joy over new shoes and please be thankful. He sure would be.