I recently went for a walk in my dad’s shoes. He doesn’t need them anymore. He’s dead.
After his funeral, I went through his closet and – well, his shoes were in great condition. And, since we wear the same size my family said, “Take ’em”.
How true it is that until we walk in another’s shoes we don’t fully understand their life or their choices. I doubt we will ever completely understand.
I don’t think I would have ever understood grief
Until the day I lost my son, nearly lost my daughter, and lost my dad.
I don’t think I would have ever understood trauma
Until the day I pulled a boy from a wrecked car, his legs like spaghetti.
I don’t think I would have ever understood being homeless
Until the day I slept in a gutter and walked into a shelter alone.
I don’t think I would have ever understood hunger
Until the day I had no food and my hunger hurt.
I don’t think I would have ever understood bankruptcy
Until the day I lost my business, home, car, and even my self-respect.
The painful truth is we only fully understand through experience. We can read books, attend classes, and listen to friends; but it’s our pain, our struggles, our joys, and our victories which give us true understanding.
I wish it was easier. I wish it was possible to use the Internet and download wisdom. It’s not. It’s our pain which teaches and transforms us. Our weakness becomes our strength. Our pain becomes our purpose. Our scars become our stars.
I remember once visiting a drug addiction treatment program. The instructor’s firepower was not from her graduate degrees; rather from the burning coals she crossed in recovery. A journey now clean for over a decade. Her feet had felt the searing pain. Her dead soul made alive. How is it death often precedes life.
Today in my dad’s shoes, I stopped at a restaurant for lunch. On the floor, scattered throughout, were dozens of shoes; attached to human souls. We are so much alike; yet so different. I look into the faces of him and her. And I know that until I walk in his or her shoes, I really don’t understand. But, what I can do is make a choice. To love them as a fellow traveler.
Thank you, dad. I love you.