Lessons from Pairs of Shoes

The many pairs of shoes I have owned have been valuable teachers to me.  Each pair, in its own way, has shifted my value system, enriched my life, and taught me difficult and important lessons.

I remember the pair of tennis shoes with rubber at the toes I didn’t want to throw away in the worse of my rebellion as an older teenager and so I insisted on wearing them though the tops were gone and there were large holes from the rubber toe coverings to the shoe laces keeping the shoes on my feet.  I was my own person and I needed to prove it.  It was of some embarrassment to my parents, my mother, especially.  Now I’m so sorry I mortified someone I admire so much, but at the time my need for independence was of greater weight than kindness.  This pair of shoes taught me to be patient when I see others, especially young people, express their individuality by the audacity of the shoes they choose to wear.

My Barbie doll shoes came to me as a gift many years ago.  I remember them well because I felt so different inside when I wore them, different enough to give them this name.  They were sleek, with strips that stretched in many different directions across my feet, all the while avoiding the tender wide angle of my joints and complimenting my oversized foot in such a way to make me feel great any time I wore them.  They had little to no sole, but oh the joy I felt in wearing them to nice occasions.  In addition, they didn’t wear my feet out much on long, lovely dinner dates.

I have learned from this pair of shoes that feeling lovely in a gorgeous pair of shoes more than pays for itself in the self-confidence and romance it brings to your heart.  As I grow older and can no longer wear such fine, fancy shoes, I am also taught that I must enjoy my pleasures when they come by, for they will drift past me and be no more soon enough.

You see, I’m at a new season of life.  I can’t easily wear high-heeled shoes any more without aching for hours afterwards.  And so I look at these splendid species of shoes and smile.  I loved them well when I was able to wear them and will let others enjoy them in their season, too.

Another more recent experience is vivid in my mind.  In my innocent pride, I selected a flat pair of attractive shoes to take on a trip instead of a more sturdy, but less attractive pair that fit better and were completely, totally, and wholly comfortable.  My suitcase was small and I was sure that the chosen shoes would reshape themselves sufficiently to be comfortable enough.

As a result, I suffered through the long ten-day trip.  Because it was my only pair of shoes, when I needed to stroll, I walked in discomfort.  Consequently, each time I stood and moved, I hurt.  I eventually wore Band-aids on the toe that got most of the abuse, but it wasn’t enough to alleviate the lesson being taught by each step:  when in traveling for any reason, tend towards the modest and durable, both in clothing, food, and shoes.

Another lessons came from shoes purchased long ago.  My parents bought their eight children new school shoes just before school began every year and then only as needed during the school year.  One year, when I was a new teenager I wanted a certain pair of Buster Brown shoes very much.  They had been very popular during the previous school year and the ones I wanted were flashy:  white with deep purple leather accents, just like my friends had been wearing for some months.  They were neither practical nor easy to keep clean, and proved to be rather expensive.

My wise parents, seeing that I had chosen unwisely, but knowing the value of a good lesson well-learned, promised that I might have that particular pair of shoes if I would wear them until they were completely, utterly worn out.  I eagerly agreed, only to discover that by the time I began to wear this pair of shoes to school, their popularity was fading fast.  I wore these sturdy shoes to school for a whole year and then into half of the next school year before I barely made a dent in their usability.  In the meantime, my friends were now wearing the latest and greatest style of shoes, very different from my Buster Browns.  In addition, I had to work doubly hard to keep the white leather areas very spotless for polished, clean shoes were the standard in our home.  It seemed that those shoes would never wear out and I had to wear them long after their beauty had faded from my eyes.

In this way, my parents taught me about making wise purchases that weren’t always swayed by style.  They also taught me that when I made a purchase, especially in a household where there were twenty feet to shoe, it would probably be a decision of some consequence and length.  Thus, I should choose very, very carefully.

I have had many pairs of shoes during the years, and time after time they teach me lessons about life:  be wise, choose carefully, choose modesty over flash, have a treasured, lovely treat once in a while, and mostly just think before you place down your money.

As a final note, a most prized pair of shoes has just broken.  They were purchased when my son was ill with leukemia and were a gift from my mother-in-law on an especially difficult day during his illness.  She sent me from his bedside and encouraged me to think of something else for a while. So I bought a pair of black sandals.  They were of classic style and good quality for I have wore them steadily for almost twenty years.  Each and every time I have worn them, I have remembered our valued son.   One of the straps has finally torn, and so I’ll have to put them aside now.  My latest lesson from shoes:  memories are precious and they last a long time.  Make sure that the memories you make are worthy of your character, just like a good pair of high-quality, well-loved pair of shoes is worthy of your feet.

Photos from sxc.hu.  Used with permission of Danjeager.

Leave a Reply