You Need to Borrow My Shoes

….just for a day. Seriously, you need to.

A few months ago I wrote on this topic. “What Kind of Shoes Are You Walking In?” And now it’s time to expand on it. Because that particular blog was merely talking about the uncomfortable shoes I was wearing for a short time.

But what about the uncomfortable shoes our friends are being forced to wear? Shoes they didn’t select for themselves, but are being forced to wear because they have no others. It’s not that they want to continue to wear them; they have no means to buy a new pair. They’ve window shopped a lot, looking and dreaming about having a new pair of shoes that aren’t falling apart; that aren’t too tight or rubbing blisters on their heels.

Sometimes they go in the store and actually try on a pair of new shoes. They feel so good because they fit properly. They’re comfortable and although they’re not too fashionable, they’re attractive and not falling apart. They walk around in them for a few minutes, and remember the days they could go in a store and buy a new pair. And wonder how in the world they could ever buy them now; if there’s enough change in their pocket to pay for them.

Then the salesperson comes over and says, “Take those off! They’re not to be tried on, and they’re not for sale! At least they’re not for sale to you! You don’t deserve shoes like that anymore!”

So they take the shoes off carefully, so as not to damage them, hand them to the salesperson, and sadly walk out of the store, embarrassed, head down so no one will recognize them. While the salesperson looks around and sees someone else looking for shoes and offers that same pair to them. “You look like you could use a new pair of shoes today. Try these on. They’re even on sale.”

Unless you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, gone through their experiences, you have no idea what trials they’ve gone through. And unless you know the whole story, you have no right to criticize them. You have no idea how you would react, what you would do, in their particular circumstances. Because most likely you’ve never been there. And wouldn’t want to be.

We have a friend going thru a very nasty divorce; whose husband left her unexpectedly with masses of unpaid bills; a mortgage over a year in arrears; a vehicle with six months of past due payments; and a hidden life she’s still discovering. A stay at home mom all of her married life, she had no choice but to put what furniture and household items she could into storage and move back home with her elderly father.

Since that time she has had people tell her she’s worthless; that everything was her fault (which it was not); that she should go to a woman’s shelter and get her life together and not disturb her family; that she’ll never be able to support herself because she has no skills, etc.

Talk about kicking someone when they’re at their lowest …some of those people desperately need to wear her shoes for an hour or two and see what they feel like.

All too often we make assumptions about others based only on what we see outwardly. Most times those who are going through the hardest times are the ones who never let on about their needs. Instead of saying they can’t afford to go somewhere, they make excuses that they have other plans. Or say they’ve just finished dinner when you invite them out on the spur of the moment. They don’t tell you about the lonely evenings, the job rejection letters or the one meager meal they can scrape together each day. Because it’s embarrassing. And they’ve been judged too many times by well-meaning individuals who say they just want to “help”. And many times the “help” does nothing to help the situation. Bad advice is bad advice even if it’s given in “love”.

The next time someone trusts you enough to open their life and their heart to you, listen before you judge, and think before you speak. Do you know what shoes they’re walking in right now? And if you really and truly do know, is the advice something you’d want to hear? And is it something that you yourself would do if you were in that situation? And before you answer that question, think about all the ramifications if you DID take that advice. Because you may change your mind.

One more word of advice. Open your own closet and look at your shoes. Are they all comfortable, or do some of them pinch your feet? Do some of them blister your heels? Are they old and in need of discarding? Are there a few pairs in there you may need to wear again for a little while to remember just how they felt?

Then go to your friend’s closet and try hers on. And see how they feel.

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