My daughter, like many others, loves to put on my shoes. Strangely my sturdy Tevas are not as picturesque as a pair of heels. The first time she tried them on, my pulse quickened with concern. My shoes are with me everywhere. The street. The dirt. Drop toilets. Everywhere. And in wanting to be like mama, suddenly my child is exposed to everything that was on, or near to, whatever I walked on…in a land where life threatening diseases are the norm rather than the exception, there are plenty of things a mama could worry on about, besides my daughter in my shoes.
“Would it have been worse,” I wonder, “If I was still walking the streets of the slums every day?” I would not have worn sandals out as often, especially during rainy season. Feet protected; heart exposed.
But both here and there, feet have little chance of making it out unweathered, with natural red dye in the earth, and heat that cracks the softest heel. Missionary Feet. I remember when I first noticed them on others that I met. They were a stark contrast to the many pampered toes walking the streets of Southern California. I used to have a strong aversion to even the softest of feet. A repulsion which could, and was, used against me in jest.
I’m not sure when it changed; the softness of my feet, and my sensitivity to them.
I think it was the day the dirt didn’t wash away. Seconds turned minutes of scrubbing and soaping revealed that I was turning black -beginning with a part of the body that rarely sees the sun. It was then that a pumice stone became part of my daily ritual.
It can sounds glamourous, moving to Africa. And then bit by bit, months wear on, and holidays come, and the excitement becomes routine and your feet begin to take on a smell and skin becomes thick.
It was a poor harvest last year for many, which means Christmas time (rainy season, when next years seeds are hopefully being watered) is one of the hardest times of the year.
Outside of my house leathered soles walk the streets, and my own callused heels cringe at both their own texture and at the disparity in between.
Feet that bear the brunt of whatever circumstance this body chooses to walk into. Shoes that protect the feet of the one that can afford them. Daughter that loves the shoes of the one she knows.
Advent season is here, and I miss… anything. Nostalgia is in everything, and in nothing as the familiar is different from memory, but the season still prepares our hearts to hope.
I hear Handel’s Messiah and the soprano voice floating through the church gently reminding “how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things…”
and I look down at dirt that won’t wash off, and think of the hardened feet of those outside and am struck with the humanity of it all, and the worth in the humanity.
One pair of feet – the only ones that could carry the weight of the one who preached the gospel of peace.
And we pray our feet, whatever weather we face, will be able to bear the same weight of love.