A little bit of caring sure can go a long wayPublished 9:59am Monday, January 7, 2013
Column: Something about Nothing, by Julie Seedorf
We have all heard the expression or idiom, “Walk a mile in my shoes.” It means we should try to understand before criticizing.
We all criticize others. It appears to be part of the makeup of human character. I would like to say that I always remember that phrase and have compassion for everyone, but that would not be true. It seems the times when I am most unhappy with myself or my circumstances, instead of criticizing myself, I criticize others.
Recently I resigned from two committees. I have to admit I didn’t do too much on those committees, and that is part of the reason I resigned. I was only half a member. That means I was only half committed. I could tell myself that it was the committee’s fault, but it wasn’t; it was mine. I was there because I felt I should help with something but didn’t have the heart or the time commitment to do a good job.
Not everyone will understand, but I know, walking in my shoes, that I don’t have the time needed to commit to something that my heart was not in. There are other people who are not committee people, and we criticize them for it but we don’t see what they do behind the scenes. We don’t see what is happening in their personal lives. We don’t see what is happening with their health issues.
There are many people walking around today that look perfectly healthy. These people may suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety or other illnesses that are hidden. Because they look healthy they are misunderstood when they can’t do something. We do not walk in their shoes so we do not understand.
If we are fortunate to have a nice home, a good job and money to spend we do are not able to walk in the shoes of someone who is on unemployment and struggling. We do not walk in the shoes of someone who has to receive help from the county. We do not walk in the shoes of someone who is homeless.
We do not understand how they got there, how they feel or the struggles they are facing. If we have never had to worry about only having pennies left and no food in the house we don’t understand and it is easier to criticize and make judgment because we have never had to walk in their shoes.
If we have always lived in this country we have never had to walk in the shoes of someone who has immigrated here.
My grandparents had to walk in those shoes. When they came here they had no jobs. They didn’t understand the language, and they had no money. In those days it was also hard to become a part of this country and be accepted. Because they continued on through the discrimination I am able to be an American citizen and live in this country.
One day when I was visiting a museum with my daughter I looked into the eyes of a picture of a Native American woman. For some reason the eyes on the portrait caught my attention. They were very lifelike. It was such a good portrait that I felt her soul through her eyes and the thought crossed my mind that she was no different than I except for the color of her skin. She could feel hurt, she could feel pain, she could feel sadness and she could feel happiness. The distance between us was not so great. But I have never walked in her shoes.
We live in a world where violence seems to be getting the upper hand. Recent events have divided us about gun control. Recent events have divided us about the solution to America’s problems. It is tearing us apart pitting friends against friends, family against family and stranger against stranger all in the name of seeking peace for our future generations.
Perhaps the answer is trying to walk in another’s shoes or imagining yourself walking in your neighbors shoes for even an instant. We don’t understand sickness until it happens to us. We don’t understand homelessness until it happens to us. We don’t understand finding ourselves in a strange place surrounded by other languages unless it happens to us.
Perhaps part of the answer is to have compassion for one another, to walk in someone’s shoes for just a little while and to criticize less and remember we don’t know all of the facts.
In a perfect world that would happen. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. It is a new year. Perhaps each one of us can try a little harder to reach out to our neighbor or to a stranger without any fanfare or any announcements in the paper.
We all want to be recognized for our deeds but those deeds that are done in the name of compassion and without fanfare are perhaps the greatest signs of love and compassion that there is. Those deeds done out of kindness, without understanding another’s journey through life, are perhaps the hardest deeds to do but the most rewarding.
We don’t have to understand; we just need to care.
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.