PORCH SWING POINT OF VIEW: Empathy and Shoes


Around the world, folks have begun to scramble in order to obtain that perfect gift for the special people in their lives.  Although much more of that shopping will be done online this year, it still continues.  Toys and dolls, electronics and new tech, kitchen gadgetry, and (my favorite) delectable edibles will all be neatly wrapped and exchanged in only a couple of weeks.  And despite the vast array of possible gifts, there remains one item, something we all need, which is rarely gifted.  That item is shoes. 

So why don’t we present those on our Christmas list with a new pair of kicks every now and then?  Too expensive?  No, even shoes are on Black Friday sales.  Too difficult to find?  Though there may be a toilet paper shortage, I’ve heard no such similar news about sneakers or pumps.  No, the reason we don’t often gift shoes is because shoes are so very unique to the individual wearing them.  I’m not necessarily speaking about style, though we do have variant opinions on what makes a good-looking shoe.  More importantly, I’m referring to the fit.  Even if I knew my wife’s shoe size (I admittedly don’t), I wouldn’t dare begin to pick a pair to gift her, because inevitably, they just wouldn’t fit right.  Only one person knows if a pair of shoes feel right and that is the person wearing them.  I’m reminded of the old adage, “Try walking a mile in my shoes.”

How often do we remind ourselves of that maxim and evaluate another’s situation before making a decision or judgment?  Too infrequently, I fear.  When we take the opportunity to examine the unique experiences of those around us though, and relate them to our own, we can begin to develop empathy which is what the saying is truly all about.  We should all make that our goal.

In the end though, we can never truly know what someone else is going through; we can never walk that mile in someone else’s shoes.  And it’s a good thing, for I reckon our feet would really begin to hurt by the end of some of those walks. 

But despite the fact we can’t walk that mile and we don’t know what shoes are comfortable to others, much the same way we don’t know what those people are going through in their lives, I expect a Size 12 worth of understanding and a shoestring’s length of compassion might go a long way in making those miles easier to traverse. 

Many blessings of Christmas to you and yours this season.

P.S.— “I stand corrected” Perhaps a few of you realized that I incorrectly referenced Thanksgiving as falling on the last Thursday of November in my last column.  Thanksgiving falls, in fact, on the fourth Thursday of each November, which is sometimes, but not always, the last Thursday of the month.  A thousand apologies to those who may, as a result of my misinformation, now celebrate Thanksgiving 2023 on November 30th, rather than the 23rd.

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