Walk a Mile in His Shoes

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

By Curtis Peter van Gorder

Most people would be happy to walk a mile in a pair of plush designer shoes or top-of-the-line athletic shoes, but how many would want to step into a poor laborer’s shoes?

“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” If there was anyone who knew all about that, it was probably Mother Teresa. After having lived among the poorest of the poor in India for nearly 30 years (and she would continue to do so for nearly 20 more), she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She began her acceptance speech with the words, “Life is life.” She went on to explain that all human beings are special and of great worth, no matter who they are, and that only when we have learned to respect that fact can we begin to help them improve their lives.

Most people would be happy to walk a mile in a pair of plush designer shoes or top-of-the-line athletic shoes, but how many would want to step into a poor laborer’s shoes? When I was living in Uganda, East Africa, I found a discarded pair of shoes that became to me a symbol of Africa and its sweet-spirited but struggling people. It was apparent from the cement splatters that their last owner had been a construction worker. Like many others I observed there, he no doubt worked long days in sweltering heat with no protection against the sun and had only a couple of sticks of raw sugar cane for lunch. He had worn those shoes until the holes in the soles had gotten so big that the shoes no longer served their purpose. When there was no point in wearing them one more day, he left them for me to find. It wasn’t his intention, of course, but those shoes put my own petty problems into perspective.

There wasn’t any question in my mind when, some time later, a young man knocked at my door, asking for help. He had won a scholarship to a boarding school, but there was one requirement he couldn’t fulfill—he didn’t have any shoes. He asked if I had an extra pair I could give him. The ones I was wearing at the time fit him quite nicely, and that was that.

No, one simple act of kindness didn’t make me a saint on the level of Mother Teresa, but I do believe that in that moment I experienced a touch of what motivated her all those years: “The love of Christ compels us.”1

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1. 2 Corinthians 5:14

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