Walking in My Dad’s Shoes
Today, I went for a walk in my dad’s shoes. He won’t need them anymore. He recently passed away. When my family and I went through his closet after the funeral – well, his shoes were in great condition. He and I wear the same size, and I kind of liked them. So, my family said, “Take them”. And, now, they’re mine.
It’s often said until we walk in another person’s shoes, we can’t fully understand that person’s life or the choices they made. Honestly, I’m not sure we ever completely understand another person. I’m not sure I understand myself much of the time. To fully understand, I need to fully experience.
I don’t think I would have ever understood grief
Until the day I lost my son, nearly lost my daughter, and have now lost my dad.
I don’t think I would have ever understood trauma
Until the day I pulled a boy from a terrible auto crash, his legs like soft spaghetti.
I don’t think I would have ever understood being homeless
Until the day I slept in a gutter and walked into a homeless mission.
I don’t think I would have ever understood hunger
Until the day I was famished because I hadn’t eaten for days.
I don’t think I would have ever understood what it feels like to be bankrupt
Until nearly 30 years ago when I lost my business, home, car and my self-respect.
The truth is we can only fully understand some things when we fully experience them. We can read about it in books and magazines, we can attend classes and seminars, and listen to others talk about it. But it’s our pain, our struggles, our joys and our victories – our experiences that give us true understanding.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish I could hook my brain to an Ethernet cord and simply download wisdom. But, it’s not so. It’s the road of suffering that teaches us true understanding. It’s the road of longsuffering that delivers us a gift – the ability to turn our pain into purpose and our scars into stars.
I remember years ago visiting a drug addiction treatment program to support a family member. I listened to the instructor explain addiction. Her power, influence and credentials as an instructor were not her formal education, diplomas and degrees. It was she was once an addict and now she was clean; had been for years. She had walked in the shoes of an addict; on the hot road and felt the searing pain on the bottoms of her feet. I intensely and quietly listened. And, my soul could hear the whispering wounds and wisdom words from her soul.
In some ways, my dad and I were a lot alike. He had a happy spirit about him. People tell me I have a happy spirit as well. He was bald; I have a shaved head so we kind of looked alike. He was married to the same woman for 60+ years. I’m not quite there but I’m on the path at 36 anniversaries.
In many ways, though, we’ve walked in very different shoes. He wasn’t much for details or planning. I obsess over both. He was easy-going and laid back. I can be intense and impatient. He was born and raised in rural Texas; dirt poor with a backyard vegetable garden. I was raised in metropolitan Los Angeles; middle class with a backyard swimming pool.
On today’s walk in my dad’s shoes, I stopped for lunch in a restaurant. While eating, I looked around and focused on all the different sizes and shapes of shoes people wore. My, my, we’re a people of variety. Tennis shoes, dress shoes, sandals, and loafers. White, black, gray, green and yes, even pink. We’re like snowflakes, no two alike.
Yet, we have so much in common. We long to love and be loved. We experience happiness and sadness, laughter and tears. Sometimes, we’re afraid. At other times, our boldness surprises even us.
Walking in my dad’s shoes reminds me until I walk in another person’s shoes I need to be patient with others. While we may have much in common, we’re different. Only until I have walked in their shoes can I begin to understand who they really are.
God, give me patience with others when mercy is needed,
Impatience when judgment is needed,
And the wisdom to know the difference.