Shoes Don’t Make The Man

There is a wise, but anonymous saying I have come across a number of times that goes: “…I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet…”  While I can’t relate directly to either situation, I do relate to the intent of the thought.  Growing up and through a good part of my 20’s, extra footwear was a luxury not present in my life.  If I was lucky at the time, my shoe collection contained a pair of dress up shoes, a pair of everyday work or school shoes and a pair of athletic shoes of some sort.

In high school it was embarrassing at times to me to have only one pair of shoes to wear to school.  I was not allowed to wear my “Sunday shoes” to school and my school years were before athletic shoes were acceptable dress in the halls of education (unless you were at P.E. (gym was called physical education where I went to school).  The same was true in business as I grew up and entered the professional world.  In my working life self-consciousness came to me about having only the one pair of dress shoes most of the time.  I realize now, probably no one noticed what was on my feet at school and there was even less interest in what shoes I wore to work .

On-line I found this explanation of self-consciousness: an acute sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being….

It is only human for to suffer with self-consciousness from time to time. For one reason or another there are also those of us who lacking enough self esteem find ourselves concerned with “other esteem” or with being judged by what is outside of us, who we are, what we have and so on.  I grew up to be one of those people and only in my adult life have I been able to see it and realize that it is a self made restriction and unnecessary concern.  Even now I can’t say it is completely gone.  What begins when we are children usually never completely goes away.  Intellectual awareness has improved my thinking and the longer I am cognizant of those thoughts the more they diminish.

As much as I thought the lack of extra shoes diminished me at the time, I am grateful for the childhood days where that thinking taught me humility.  As an adult, I can now give thanks for the times I did not have a dress shoe collection for it taught me the ability to feel appreciation when I was able to afford more.  As a human being, I have gratitude for these experiences as it has softened me and helped me to be more compassionate toward people who have little.

I have a good friend in Peru who grew up in the jungles of the Amazon. He told me long ago that he did not have his first pair of shoes until he was 14 and those were for church and school only.  He said that first pair of shoes hurt his feet and he continued to go barefoot whenever he could growing up.  He even talks about a concoction that his Mother rubbed on his feet as a kid to make the bottoms of his feet tougher.  I have touched the bottoms of his feet and even today as an adult his feet are tough with thick layer of callus on the bottom (with quite an assortment of interesting scars).  Further, his feet are much flatter and more spread out that I am accustomed to seeing.  He says it is from growing up without his feet constricted in shoes. He says he runs faster, climbs trees better and has a more stable stance when barefoot.  And of course as an adult today one of his favorite pastimes is going barefoot in the jungle!  His view of things often flips my traditional views on their head.  I am thankful for that insight.

While I am grateful for all I have learned and the knowledge I intellectually have, today I have a LOT of shoes. The 6 pair of athletic shoes, 9 pair of dress shoes and at least that many pair of casual dress footwear (plus my cowboy and hiking boots) in my closet speak loudly.  The loud mental voice says that while I have over come a good bit of the old thoughts of having few shoes, I will never be over it completely.  It was part of the shaping of me into the unique person I am.  I accept that.  I think what I really need is few months in Peru, get some of that foot toughening stuff on my feet and hang out in the jungle with my friend Jesus.  What stands out most in my memory of visiting his country is how blessed we are in the USA.   The unfortunate part is most people here have no idea how “rich” they are.

The truly rich are not the ones who have a lot and want more.  They are the ones who are content with what they have.