Every day, choices impact our lives. Some we make, and some are made for us. Some we see coming down the road, and some blindside us. All of them shape who we are—whether we want them to or not.
One day long ago I was driving to work with little time to spare—not a shocking revelation, if you know me. Traffic was worse than usual, though, and my fear of being late was growing by the minute. At the time, I was teaching, so being late was kind of a big no-no. Nothing like 28 unattended teenagers waiting for you to get your act together. With frustration and anxiety oozing from my veins, I did the bumper-to-bumper dance and prayed that the jam would break soon.
Eventually I saw what was causing the backup: a nasty accident that required ambulances and cleanup. As I got closer, I could see that they were still in the process of caring for the victims. I looked on, as morbid curiosity drives us to, and I saw a woman getting belted onto a stretcher. I immediately looked away, realizing I was peering into a very raw, personal moment for this woman.
And then I saw it. The shoe on the pavement. It was a small, brown ballet flat just lying in the roadway. Instinctively, I took a quick look back to see the woman on the stretcher…and, as I suspected, the shoe belonged to her. She had a bare right foot, and her left foot had on the mate to the shoe on the ground. I choked up and began crying.
It sent my perspective reeling. My mind whirled to her morning, where, like me, she picked out her clothes and then decided which shoes were the right choice. I thought about how that process of “looking her best” probably seemed important to her in that moment…and how trivial and insignificant it was in this moment. And I sobbed for her—and for me, too, as I realized that my worry of being late was ridiculous compared to what this woman was experiencing.
The shoe on the pavement.
What seems important in one moment is petty in another. Little did she know that her life was about to change dramatically on her way to work. How could she? She got herself ready for work and headed out the door. She made the choices she knew were in her realm to make, and then life made a big choice for her.
Now, my point isn’t “don’t care about the shoes you choose.” In fact, I’m not really certain what my point is. What I do know is that a lot of people I know and love and care about are going through some really tough times. Major health challenges, family strife, job losses and transitions, addictions, financial crises, losing loved ones…the gamut. I’m not exempt, either, as my little family has had a few major curve balls come our way without warning, too. Life is playing hardball, people.
We all “choose our shoes,” so to speak, and we all at one time or another have them lying on the pavement, reminding us that, while choosing those shoes does matter (as a women, I cannot say otherwise!), we better brace ourselves for life’s choices, too.
And we best remember that we don’t know what others are battling. Our struggles loom large to us, of course, but we can never assume that others aren’t going through struggles even tougher than our own. So…maybe I do know my point. Maybe we all need to remember to give each other grace. A LOT of grace. And compassion. And love. And support. Because we don’t always know who has a shoe on the pavement.