All summer long, I have been guilty of a huge fashion faux pas. Because I am trying to be kind to my ankle after a lengthy recovery from last summer’s surgery, I am hardly interested in how I look; I am just happy that I can walk. And because I want to CONTINUE to be able to walk, I am choosing footwear that values form over function.
I have two pairs of shoes right now that I am able to walk in with minimal pain. Both are black; one is more of a dress shoe, but the other is a big, clunky pair of New Balance sneakers. I am a size 10 wide, so it’s not pretty under any circumstances . . . but it is summer, the season of capris and (as short as i ever go) Bermuda shorts. I need to be able to walk, though, so without apology, I wear my capris–and yes, even my shorts–with socks and black sneakers.
I cannot go up to every person I pass on the street and say to them, “I’m really not usually this tacky in my choice of footwear. I DO know that capris are not meant to be worn with giant, ugly sneakers.” I can’t communicate this to everyone, and because of this, I cannot control the assumptions people are making about me. And it suddenly struck me the other day that all of us are wearing some kind of “clown shoes”; we all have some outward trait that may not make sense to others who don’t know the story that lies beyond what the eye can see.
A friend of mine has this quote as part of her email signature: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle”. Those words convict me; I am hardly kind at all, let alone “kinder than necessary”. But perhaps I need to remember my clown shoes, and try to have more grace for those around me. To remember that we only see the shoes–that behind every pair of ugly shoes inappropriately paired with socks and shorts is a story, and a journey. As I hobble on my way, I need to remember that, just as my own shoes tell a story, so do those of the people I meet.
In time, as I continue to heal, it’s possible that I may be able to trade my clown shoes in for footwear that doesn’t call attention to me, shoes that allow me to mask my brokenness and blend in with the crowd. In doing so, however, I don’t ever want to forget where these shoes have taken me.
To respect a person’s story, to see without judging, is the best way to honor that person’s journey. And although judging others seems so automatic, I am grateful that I have these ugly shoes to help me remember that there is more to the story, and that I can never go wrong being “kinder than necessary”.