“The admonition to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes means before judging someone, you must understand his experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc. The full idiom is: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. In effect, it is a reminder to practice empathy.” -Grammarist.com
Twenty-six years ago, I had shoes without laces. I can’t remember any of it, but photos would prove I wore a steady wardrobe of white socks with pink plastic beads. Growing up, through the terrible twos, I spent most of my time barefoot. I’d refuse to constrict my feet in the confines of polyester and to avoid the screaming, my parents would concede. One day, I discovered jelly shoes. The sparkly pink rubber sandals called to everything my three-year-old brain wanted. Through the blisters and the bandaids, I found a shoe I was excited to wear.
Ten years ago, I pulled my shoes on without untying the laces. My mother complained. I ignored her. As I ran out the door, she told me that other people weren’t so lucky. That day, in the already demeaning halls of high school, I noticed five separate people with holes in their shoes. I’ve never stopped wondering if the holes were there by choice or if they were the only shoes they could afford to have.
Today, I pulled on my shoes without untying the laces. I may have been in a hurry, or maybe I’ve learned how to cut corners that don’t matter. Still, I had to pause and think about the menagerie of shoes I’ve seen throughout my life: sandals in the summer and snow boots in the winter, things I often take for granted. How often have I complained about cold feet when they were wrapped in a priceless amount of fabric and rubber? I get wrapped up in the way my shoes look when people can’t even get wrapped up in the concept of having shoes.
In a year, you might not even have to lace your own shoes. They did it for Marty McFly and then for Michael J. Fox, too. Unless you’re looking at someone else’s feet, you could go a whole day without seeing what’s on them. You throw them on before you walk out the door or you may work long hours in the same pair of work boots every day.
Maybe you wear the same pair of shoes every day for two years, or maybe you’re fortunate enough to buy a new pair whenever you wish. Some people buy shoes for fashion, others for function. Companies make a living selling flashy, over the top styles, and some businesses mass-produce the same style and color every day.
If you look closer, maybe you’ll see things you wouldn’t notice otherwise. Are they covered in dirt? Do they have rocks stuck to the tread from places far from home? I want to take a microscope to the edges and examine the dust that hides between polyester threads. If only we could walk the same places the soles of these shoes have. They have seen red rocks of southern Utah. They have walked the streets of Rome, Venice and Milan. Sometimes I think about how these shoes have seen more of the world than I have.