Walk a Mile in a Different Pair of Shoes

Scooched up to the edge of the seat, nose pressed against the back seat window or breathing down my father's neck while he drove, I spent my wee years observing the world going by. I especially loved to try to see into the living room windows of the houses we passed at night when they had lights and TVs on. I figured that was as good a way as any to find out how other people lived.

Later on, though not very often (it felt sort of creepy to do), I'd sit at the mall and watch people walk by. The frazzled mother chasing after a wild child, the older generation walking as fast as they can for their aerobic workout, the young men in suits strutting their stuff, the couple in love and the couple not so in love... I didn't hear words or tone of voice, but it wasn't difficult to imagine what all those people walking by felt at the time.

Sometimes, curiosity wins the day. It's not always enough to just watch, you have to try on that pair of shoes. Sure, it may be all in fun at first, but the reality of those very different pair of shoes hits home. Beth found that out the other night when she tried on the Chief's fire suit.

"How in the world can you move around enough to save someone wearing all this heavy stuff?" she asked. She kept smiling, but you could see the increased respect in her eyes for all that the firemen do.

I speak to hundreds of people each week for a very specific purpose, and usually only for 10 minutes or so. It's not exactly a pleasant purpose, but a necessity in their lives. The shoes, the clothes, the hands and the eyes all tell a story I'll never hear.

It's my goal to reach each person I talk to. I acknowledge them, find a way to show respect for them, and I do whatever I can within the confines of my job. The difference I can make is what psychologist Carl Rogers calls unconditional respect and regard. I see no reason to be any other way.

You see, when a person feels accepted for who and what they are, there is an immediate rapport, and very little need for dishonesty. There is a safety in that rapport; enough so that protective walls and masks come tumbling down. It's a given that I aim to understand as best I can, and that increases the feeling of value and worth.

I bring this up now because I feel that more and more people are feeling the very heavy and difficult weight of our troubled times. The loss of hope drives people inside and away from others when they need the company the most. They never give anyone a chance to understand, respect or accept them. Yes, these are trying times.

My challenge to you is to sit down and listen, really listen, to someone you've never listened to before. It could be a secretary, the paperboy, the cashier or the meter reader. Talk with someone you usually have no reason to talk to in your daily routine. Start with a hello and a smile, then proceed with a compliment to get the ball rolling. Meet their eyes with both of yours at first, then just relax. Attend by keeping your arms down at your sides and your legs uncrossed. Face them half way, not full on or fully away. Then, let it flow.

Do this once or twice, and you'll notice that your world has suddenly grown. Not only have you made someone else's day, you feel purty darned good yourself. Keep doing it, and you'll notice more and more people around you doing it too!

Ah, the world becomes a better place. And it all happens one person at a time. All those pairs of shoes aren't so different after all.


  1. Good post Theresa and very good advice. Many people are so busy with their own path and validation that they very often forget other people appreciate having someone validate and understand them also. I like your new photo by the way.

  2. LOL I took the new photo with my iPhone and it was the only one out of many that I liked! Thanks for noticing!

    I think a lot of what life is today stuffs people deep inside their protective walls, with some becoming quite selfish in the process. You're right, that's an awful lonely thing to do.