MEXICO CITY (KABC) --A Southern California man had quite the story to tell after he gave Pope Francis a shoeshine during his historic trip to Mexico. It was a gesture with a deep meaning for Noel Diaz, a man with humble beginnings.
Diaz is living his dream, but to understand it, you must go back to his start. Born in a cardboard shanty in Tijuana and the son of a single mother, Diaz remembers he was a devout Catholic even as a young child.
"I finished my classes for the first communion, and my mother told me, 'I'm sorry, but you're not going to do your first communion.' And I said, 'Why'...'Because I don't have money to buy you the clothes. You need a white shirt, you need black pants," Diaz recalled.
Even though he was just a little boy, Diaz came up with a plan. For the next few days, young Diaz, just 7 or 8 years old at the time, offered shoeshines for mere pennies until he showed up with his white shirt and black pants.
"So the day came and I was there, in line with all the kids. I was very proud, my mother was very proud of me," he said.
Diaz eventually emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Northridge. He later started Catholic TV and radio stations. Fast-forward to today when Diaz received an invitation to travel with Pope Francis through Mexico.
It's tradition when you meet the pope to give him a gift. For Diaz, his gift was obvious.
"I'm going to give him something different. I'm going to give him a shoebox," Diaz said.
A symbol of hard work, modesty and humility, Diaz presented Pope Francis with his gift on an airplane en route to Mexico City.
Diaz asked Pope Francis if he could shine his shoes and the pontiff obliged. It was a moment the devout Catholic from Southern California said he will cherish the rest of his life.
"I would never have thought being in Tijuana doing that, that I would be able to shine the shoes of the pope," Diaz said.