With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and the rest of the holiday season square in our headlights, there’s lots swirling about for most of us. Life is busy enough, but then add in the extra holiday stresses and pressures, and no wonder “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” can ring hollow. 

And even though Black Friday may have economically kicked off the Christmas season, it doesn’t exactly feel like America is full of the holiday spirit. These are contentious times indeed. Thankfully, there’s a gift we can all give to one another that is totally within our budget and one-size-fits-all.

Now more than ever, we need to make an effort to understand one another’s walks in life—to strive to relate to what it must be like in someone else’s shoes. Especially those shoes that seem so unlike our own. After all, it’s easy to love those we see as lovable—but that’s not all that we are called to do. It’s easy to agree with those whose points of view are already in line with ours, but that’s not the full story.

A little empathy goes a long way to, if not closing the gap, at least making it possible to see the other side without squinting so hard. So…I share this post of mine from over three years ago because its story reminds us not only that what seemingly matters to us in life can change in an instant, but that we all have our own challenges and struggles—and if we make the effort to understand that and give one another grace—we just may remember that we are all in this together.

 

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The Shoe on the Pavement

Originally posted on June 24, 2013

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.

 

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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.

img-thingAnd 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.

 

All photos are my own or used with permission.
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