Last night, I got ready to take Molly out for a short walk. The shoes I typically put on for this relatively simple task are slip-ons, although one acts more obediently than the other. Out of habit more than design, I tend to put my left shoe on first, and in the case of these shoes, my left foot slips straight in every time. For some reason, my right foot never manages the same degree of obedience. Invariably, I end up having to bend over and pull the back of the shoe, or if I’m feeling well balanced, I will lift my right leg back and fiddle with the shoe that way.
Why is that? It’s something I’ve got used to, you understand. I don’t think about it much at all (although I always sub-consciously acknowledge the mild inconvenience) but if you do think about it, having to do this does begin to undermine the whole point of slip on shoes. Surely they’re supposed to “slip on” yes? If I’m going to have to bend over every time for even one shoe, I may as well stick to lace-ups. And I’ve worn these shoes for years!
So for once, I did think about this as I walked around the block with Molly. I thought about some of the people I’ve met this week, and the places I’ve been to. I began to get a fresh perspective on that old proverb, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
By the time I got back home, the thought I had arrived at was this: Some shoes are really comfortable. Whether you simply slip them on or they take laces, or even for the really lazy ones of us, they consist of a simple velcro strap, they just work for you.
Then there are other shoes that look the part (and this would apply to the women more so than the men I suspect) but comfortable they are not. Certainly not after any length of walking.
Then there are the shoes that used to look good, and were even pretty comfortable. But now they’re on the way out, are battered, torn, your feet get a bit wet whenever it rains and quite frankly they should’ve been tossed out long ago.
For some people, these last shoes are all they’ve got left and they have to keep walking in them out of sheer necessity.
We don’t know the full story of 99% of the people we meet do we? We can have a guess by looking at their shoes. Or their eyes. Or listen to the emotion behind their voice if they are brave enough to say anything at all. But we don’t know how they arrived at where they are today.
That’s all the proverb means. You can’t really walk in their shoes. It would be a different experience for each one of us.
But you can at least imagine what it may have been like and be thankful for the one shoe that slips on so very easily, every time.