Saturday, March 6, 2010

Walking in other people's shoes...

Lately, in these parts, the little people have begun a new way of getting around; namely, walking in other people's shoes. My youngest, Joshua, loves nothing more than slipping his little feet into Daddy's shoes, or Mama's flats. It was the same with Matthew and Andrew, and tonight, when my sister was over with her family to celebrate her birthday over dinner (with FABULOUS homemade red velvet cupcakes, YUMMY!), my oldest niece, Alexandra, slipped on Joshua's shoes.

Why is it that we have no qualms doing this when we are toddlers, but we are virtually unable or unwilling to do this when we are adults?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the incredible amount of judgment that has been going around in my neck of the woods. Last night, as I snuggled in and read a month-old Glamour magazine, I read about websites that encouraged women to publicly humiliate other women: in other words, cyber bullying at its worst. When did we lose our ability to look beyond superficial differences and show compassion?

As a teacher, I was always overcome with emotion when I would be witness to kindness among students who were so different, that as adults, they would never acknowledge one another. I always explained to my very young students that regardless of what we looked like and the kinds of things we enjoyed doing, when we peeled back our skin, our organs were in the same places, our blood was the same color, and when we hurt, we all hurt the same.

These same children would tear up when told of the atrocities of slavery. They would turn pale when told that when integration was mandated, adults threw tomatoes and hurled insults at six year old Ruby Bridges as she walked into her school. They vowed to never treat anyone unfairly.

But somehow, that innocence fades and we become cynical.

We judge others by what they look like, what they believe in, who they love. We judge people who are very similar to ourselves; they have families who love and need them, they have dreams that they chase, they have the same concerns for their children and their futures. Yet, somehow, we feel that we are superior. That we think that we are more than qualified to pass judgment on who is deemed good or bad. Who died and left us in charge?

As I watched Joshua struggle, walking in his father's shoes, I noticed that although he was having a hard time, he didn't give up. He marched his cute little person up and down the length of our home with no worries, as if he belonged in those shoes.

And someday, he will wear a very similar pair of shoes. His foot will grow and those feet will slip into shoes that will take him to the university, where he will learn about something that he will love. Those feet will carry him into the workforce, as he makes his mark in the world.

He will find a girl whom he loves, and who loves him right back. They will decide to build a life together and he will become a husband. Later on, they will decide that their love is so great, that they must share it with some children of their own, and he will become a father.

But all in good time. Right now, the shoes that fit are those of a child. One who does not judge, but is willing to look at things from different perspectives.

And those are the shoes that we should all be struggling to slip into...


  1. That's so true. My daughters love wearing my shoes around the house and it makes me think the way you're thinking. Wondering how long they will enjoy everything at its simplest. How long their lives will be without harsh judgement (on both sides). And what I can do to get them back on track when the pull of cynicism begins to entice them...

  2. My girls love to wear my shoes! And their daddy's. This post was wonderful.

    I read an article in one of my mom's magazines yesterday (I was visiting her) about a charter school created expressly for kids who had been victims of bullies. This school is a safe haven for them, there is zero tolerance for any kind of cruelty and the kids--once so damaged--are thriving. Now THAT is a brilliant idea.

  3. I adore metaphors and think is a great one. My 2 1/2 year old son loves wearing our shoes around and I never thought of all the connections that you've drawn from it. Thanks for making me think this Sunday morning.

    And I love the sound of the charter school TKW described in her comment. Hey - we're all teachers, maybe we can open another one of those!

  4. What a beautiful metaphor.

  5. Very touching...well written.
    And damn those red velvet cupcakes were good!


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