“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
As I opened the door this early morning, the wisp of cool August air rose to greet me along with the sun and songbird singing beautifully in a nearby tree. Hummingbirds sparring gently for the sweet nectar contained in the hummingbird feeder swinging in the morning breeze. Peace and tranquillity emanate with the rising day. The picture painted without people, without judgement, without question. To critique this beginning day would undoubtedly bring clouds of gray to vision, thoughts and words. It has been presented as a gift to enjoy without credence to its weight, size or shape.
I invite you to climb into my skin,(does the color matter), into my mind, my thoughts sorrows and joys. Come and witness my life from birth until today. Wear my shoes through every life stage as I learn, grow, laugh and cry. Walk with me. Take my hand. Share in my comfort, my fears, my successes, my failures, my losses, my gains. Experience my pain, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Hear the words that I speak to myself in quiet solitude, my prayers, my hopes and dreams. Do you understand the mistakes I have made along the way and the lessons I have learned to become the person I am today. Have you made any less? Do your feet hurt because the shoes are now too small but, fear of changing your thoughts and ideas keeps you wearing the same ones enduring the same pains. The mile is half walked.
Are you tired? I know I am. We have come a long way and yet, there is still far to go. Are you walking behind me, in front of me or beside me? What are the stories you tell yourself and others of my journey? Shall we compare our shoes and our paths. As you walk in my shoes do the words “you get what you deserve” or “you must have done something wrong” or “it must be your fault” come to touch the lips of your thoughts and words? I wonder if you are truly walking in my shoes. I wonder if you can see all the beauty and goodness within me. To know and understand that like all persons in this world, I came with a purpose, a divine right to be present, in this life, this world, this community, to be. That there is more goodness, kindness and love in me than not. That I have contributed to this world in more ways than you will ever know. That despite your negative judgements of me, I still rise each day to greet the morning light and walk the path of my life.
Compassion and empathy. The ability to think yourself into another persons shoes. The ability to comprehend another’s actions and emotions. To identify thoughts and emotional states within others. The capacity to understand a persons emotional reaction and the awareness of another’s problems, without experiencing them yourself. That is EMPATHY. To understand others and see where they are coming from. If you have empathy you have compassion. Like a pair of shoes, they are a matching set. You must have one to have the other and most certainly this pair is required to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Care to try on a pair. Now walk with me. I can assure you our journey will be very different. The mile will seem much shorter and brighter. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”-Lao-tzu.
Photography by Christine Wasnie, “Nature Speaks”