No 16. You can’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

I love the old joke: “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  Then, you’re a mile away, and you’ve got their shoes”.

And I always thought I was GREAT at walking in other people’s shoes. Stilettos to flip-flops, I was convinced I could pull off any amount of shoe-compassion.  I thought I was so empathetic.  “Oh, yes, I know exactly how you feel” (emote emote).  “I know exactly where you’re coming from,” (nod nod nod). I was so sure I could understand completely how everyone felt.

But now I realise that walking a mile in another person’s shoes, on certain roads, is pretty much impossible.  The more extreme experiences of life – bereavement, chronic illness, child-birth, divorce — warp-speed you into an invisible box which no amount of empathy can penetrate.  A person can’t pretend to walk in those shoes — they only fit when you’ve done it for real.

I think it’s why I spend so much time sharing odd titbits of personal information with strangers.  I’m trying to find people who know how it feels. To the woman on the bench in W Park “I walked into the bathroom yesterday and found Mini sucking on one of my disposable razors. They get their hands on everything don’t they?” (Don’t they???).  To the owner of the WP Cafe “No, I can’t take my hat off as I haven’t had a shower in six days. I’ve been hoping that a flannel rub, some right-guard spraying and a bobble-hat will do the same job. I bet most mums say that to you, right?”

I’m waiting for someone to reply “oh yes, when I was bringing up my children by myself I regularly had to extract sharpened knives from their grasp. And I once went six WEEKS without a wash. Don’t worry!”

I’m just trying to loosen my shoes a little — have someone else try them on and let me know how I’m doing.

(This post is dedicated to the kindly minister [from many years ago] who told me that God always understands how I feel as he came and lived as a man, and experienced everything I can experience. Male, Jewish, celibate, childless, poor, perfect. Not sure the sandals fit quite so easily.  Though, even as I write this, I’m reminded of Psalm 139, which shows how God really does know my shoe-size… http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+139)

2 thoughts on “No 16. You can’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

  1. Anne, I only discovered R had had a growth spurt when I found her in the kitchen with hands full of steak knives from the (I thought high) cutlery drawer just a couple of weeks ago. And J once cut his thumb open on one of my disposable razors while having a nice bath-looked like a suicide, as blood mixed with water…..haven’t panicked so much in my life. I have similar shoes-you’re doing great.

    • ha ha ha! I love the idea of R standing there like Edward Scissorhands! Thanks Susan (-: One heck of a week and mild sense-of-humour failure on my part. I’m hoping to get it back again before christmas

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