I don't know if you can relate, but isn't it really easy to just talk or write about things without ever really experiencing them? I think we do that a lot in our culture, and especially as the Church. Talk, talk, talk with maybe a dash of action thrown in here and there. How sad. I'm guilty of it. That's why today was so good for me. I actually got my feet dirty. Literally.
It was "One Day Without Shoes" day today. An opportunity to engage us in actually experiencing a fraction of what millions of people do every day - walking barefoot everywhere. In my travels in Africa I have seen a lot firsthand, but I realized today that I haven't actually walked in their shoes (or lack thereof). I find myself really surprised by how I felt today going barefoot everywhere. I was so aware of the fact that I was uncomfortable. But, the biggest source of my discomfort really came from the realization of just how hard it must be to go through even just one day in life without shoes for so many in other countries. And the ground I walked on today couldn't have held a candle to the treacherous conditions people walk on daily.
I rolled out of bed onto my soft carpet, walked out into my garage on the smooth, cold concrete, got in my car to the welcome of soft carpet again on my feet, walked to the mailbox on the mildy annoying textured concrete sidewalk, then back into my house onto the smooth, hard wood floors.
The worst I experienced all day was my friend's gravel driveway. Ouch. You should have seen me babying myself with each step on the little rocks. You would have thought I had a sprained ankle by the way I was walking on the gravel. But, it was a reality jolt for me. My mind immediately went back to the Rock Quarry in Uganda where I saw people navigating jagged rocks barefoot, many of them with bleeding feet. And I was instantly thankful for the opportunity to in some small way identify with the people I had met that day in Uganda.
And then my son, Tariku. He had never known a pair of shoes on his feet in his four and a half years of life until he got to the orphanage. He'd been barefoot since the day his toes touched the ground in Ethiopia. I asked him about it tonight and he vividly described the first pair of shoes he received at the orphanage - a pair of rubber crocs. Let me tell you...having that pair of shoes was a big deal to him.
Going barefoot today made it more real for me. Such a small, simple thing to not wear shoes for a day. My friend Layla didn't have a reason to leave her house today with her kids but they talked about the kids in the world who can't go to school because they have no shoes and the people whose toes and feet are eaten away by infection because they don't have any foot protection. Then they all walked down their long, gravel driveway barefoot to get the mail. Just that one simple exercise left a big mark on her kids. I love that.
It's just so easy to settle in and stay comfortable with the way our lives are here in America. It was so good for me to have a little bit of a reality jolt today. If you haven't noticed, I tend to talk a lot about poverty and it's impact here on my blog. I can so easily tire of all the talk, as I'm sure can you, not to mention God. It felt right today to actually do something to help make the connection between my words and my heart...to shake myself out of my frequently self-centered rut.
There is something special about identifying with someone else...in acknowledging their reality. Isn't that what we celebrate this month? God sending His son to identify with us? God put skin on so that He could feel what we feel and experience our pain and suffering. He is the ultimate example of what it looks like to walk in someone's shoes, or lack thereof. And I'm pretty sure He modeled that because He knew that identifying with one another is where we come alive and fully into who He made us to be.
All that from just one day without shoes. Go figure. Wonder what would happen if I REALLY took a risk identifying with others...
"The way of Jesus is about our descent. Its about our death. It’s our willingness to join the world in its suffering, it’s our participation in the new humanity, it’s our weakness calling out to others in their weakness.”- Rob Bell