“The admonition to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes means before judging someone, you must understand his experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc. The full idiom is: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. In effect, it is a reminder to practice empathy. While long credited as a Native American aphorism, replacing the word shoes with moccasins, the saying almost certainly is derived from a Mary T. Lathrap poem published in 1895. The original title of the poem was Judge Softly, later titled Walk a Mile in His Moccasins. There are many variations on the phrase such as walk a mile in his, her or my shoes. A plea for empathy is phrased put yourself in my shoes, as well as put yourself in his or her shoes.” (From: Grammarist.com)
Today that seems a lost phrase for people to consider in some aspects of our society. As I go about my day, I see workers cutting grass, putting on roofs, building homes, repairing roads and infrastructure of the community in the hot, humid southwest Florida weather. For many of us these are almost faceless people. We know nothing about them, barely acknowledge their existence and should we walk by them, do we look at them in the eye and greet them, or avert our eyes and move on?
Years ago I was involved in a mission project in the Dominican Republic working with the Haitian population helping to build a hospital for the poor, both Haitians and Dominicans. It is called the Good Samaritan General Hospital in the city of LaRomana, D.R. Feel free to look it up online to see how much good the hospital does.
On one of my trips, I was out in the evening walking in the city. It is a city of around 170,000 people. All of sudden it hit me, I was the only Anglo person in sight and I could not speak the language. Granted I could scurry back to the church compound but I had been to the city several times and felt comfortable walking around. It gave me a glimpse of what it might feel like as an immigrant to a country where you do not look like anyone or speak the language of the population. How hard it must be for people who decide that in order to simply live and/or seek a better life what they give up and what they face as they land in a new place where everything is foreign. It takes a great deal of effort and determination to assimilate into a new culture and do people that do this ever feel at home? The ties to a homeland run deep in all of us.
On another trip to this mission I was staying for a longer time than my wife so she flew back with another group headed to the U.S. A person from the Dominican Republic, it was not known if the person was a Dominican or Haitian decided to stow away in the area where the landing goes as it is retracted in order to escape one life and start a new life in a the U.S. As the plane ascended he was unable to hang on and dropped to his death. The plane as it prepared to land later in the U.S. had to circle the airport so people on the ground could look at the landing gear with binoculars to make sure it was okay. Talk about desperation.
In these days of judgement and fear of immigrants imagine walking in their shoes before you judge. We are all children of God seeking a better life.