The apartment was ramshackle. A tight kitchen accentuated by dirty dishes left in the sink. Non-perishables in the cupboard…perishing. This depressing environment is only further accentuated by a broken light fixture.
Equally discouraged and relieved, Frank Diaz spins the broken light fixture and says, “Well, it’s not exactly where God left his shoes…But it’ll work.”
That line becomes the title of a Salvatore Stabile’s indie-film Where God Left His Shoes. It’s a film mixed with despair and hope. It’s a film that also stings with an unspoken, ignored reality in our nation.
Frank Diaz, portrayed by John Leguizamo, is happy standing in this substandard apartment because it is much better than the homeless shelter where he and his family have been staying for the last two months. In that same scene, he pulls his stepson to the kitchen window and excitedly points out Yankee Stadium and verbalizes his wishes for what the two of them will be doing on Opening Day.
Diaz is hopeful, but in a non-saccharin way. He’s rooted in realism; he just wants what is best for his family.
His circumstance came about with the loss of work. Like so many hanging by an economic thread, Frank Diaz’s family has been living paycheck-to-paycheck. It has now been a couple months without those paychecks. The eviction notice arrives and they have two hours to gather their belongings.
After time in the shelter, Frank gets good news: He and his family have cleared the waiting list and are now eligible for this apartment. Frank’s relief and measured enthusiasm abruptly departs when it’s determined his work as an “off-the-books” day laborer don’t qualify him as being gainfully employed or having regular income — a requirement of all tenants.
This sets off a sequence of events that provide a glimpse into what it is like to live a life of poverty — a life perpetually on the edge. I do not wish to give away important details of the story; however, Frank’s obstacles to getting his family out of their situation are palpable. They are powerful examples that hard-work and determination are not a guaranteed escape from poverty.
Today in America, over 37 million people live at or below the poverty level. It is estimated that by the end of 2010 the number will rise to 50 million. This is not a collection of so-called “lazy people” lacking motivation. As much as we don’t like to think this happens in our prosperous nation, those living in poverty are examples of the serious injustices in our economic and social structures. Sadly, these injustices make casualties out of people like Frank Diaz and his family….As well as families and individuals in our own communities.
To better understand the impact of poverty — even upon the most-determined people — I highly recommend picking up a copy of Where God Left His Shoes. Fret not that the film is one of despair. As I mentioned, this is also a story of hope and there are shining examples of redemption that champion the human spirit in this film.
For more information, you can also visit the Official Website