May 16th, 2004
LIMPING IN ANOTHER PERSON'S SHOES
There are many topics on which people try to claim that you have to have been "in someone's shoes," in order to comment on. 99% of the time, those people are wrong.
You don't have to have children to know how to raise them. You don't have to be a Police Officer to know that it's wrong to beat a suspect. You don't have to have a driver's license to know not to run a red light.
The idea behind "walking in someone else's shoes," is what's called empathy. It's the idea that you need to put yourself in someone else position to know how they FEEL in their situation. In other words, I don't have kids, but I know that kids need to be punished when they are bad. What I don't know, and can't know, is how it feels to spank your own child. I am not capable of that type of empathy. I know that a cop shouldn't beat a suspect, but I also have no idea what type of emotions swirl through the mind of a person who wakes up everyday to protect people and is, in turn, cursed at and hated by the scum of the Earth.
Having not walked in another person's shoes doesn't take a way your ability to properly and fairly evaluate their situation and how they should behave, but it does most likely negate your ability to know how they feel.
For example, I am not handicapped. I have never even broken a bone in my body. Even so, I know that handicapped people should carry themselves with pride, dignity and honor. They should never want to be treated as anything less than another person because they are. I know that a handicapped person should never look at his condition as a burden, but rather as a gift and/or a challenge, which they will rise above.
What I don't know is how they feel while trying to do all of that. Don't get me wrong, it's irrelevant in terms of how they should behave, but it's still an interesting lesson in empathy.
My wife broke her foot last month. She was stuck at home for the month of April, ordered to stay off the foot. Finally, on the second weekend of May, she was allowed to travel to Las Vegas for Dawn's wedding, wearing a "walking boot," which is nothing more than a giant, cumbersome softer version of a cast that looks silly and feels worse. The damn thing goes up to my wife's knee and is hardly a fashion statement. Plus, it's only on one foot, so she walks with a limp and looks like a goof.
My wife and I were struck by the attention she received during that weekend. Sadly, it wasn't sympathy. People did not go out of their way to hold doors open for my limping wife, or offer optimistic cheers of support. My wife, with just a broken foot, was treated like a leper. I couldn't believe it. Everywhere we went, people stared and pointed at her.
Because my wife is a tall blond, I'm used to men looking at her. I'm not used to every single person in a room staring at her foot. I noticed it immediately, but didn't say anything to my wife, as I didn't want to make her self-conscious. By Saturday, she'd had enough and made a remark to me*at which point I realized that while I had notice it, she had been smothered by it. She felt like a second-class citizen. She was being gawked at, and for no reason other than a very slight difference in her appearance. She and I talked about how it must be to be morbidly obese, or truly handicapped. Thanks God my wife's condition is temporary*others live with this their entire lives.
In the end, my opinion is the same. The only way to combat our rude, selfish, hurtful society is to hold your head up high and realize how much better you are than the people who think it's okay to mock and stare at you. What I learned however was just how courageous the people that can do that are. Limp a mile in their shoes and you may see what I mean.