Monday, December 3, 2018

Pedestrian lesson

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view....Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." --Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

As an English teacher, I regularly deal in metaphor, which perhaps explains why taking something too literally on Monday morning felt both delightful and more-than-a-little transgressive.

I was shuffling the short distance from the bus stop to school in the chill December dawn when I noted a thin layer of overnight snow coated the sidewalk. It was early enough that I was just the second person to traverse the white canvas. The heavy tread of someone else's bootprint made this case plainly.

An unexpected compulsion throbbed through me: I needed to walk in those same steps. I wasn't being followed, nor trying to conceal how many of me there were; I just had to do this. So, I adjusted my stride to let my foot land on top of the next print. Each step following suit, a smidgen shorter than my natural gait, I made my awkward way along the walk. Turns out occupying someone else's shoes -- just the outline of them, really -- is hard, uncomfortable work.


  1. I love that quote. I liked reading that you tried to walk on the footsteps of another. It is true it is difficult to do that but we have to try if we really want to understand others a little at least. Liked the photos too. Regards.

  2. I am drawn by the compulsion to step in the footprints, as if they called to you. Maybe a subconscious desire not to mar the snow any further (as I am so compelled). More likely a natural expression of being human - alike in traveling this same way, yet so different in the size of our stride, the weight of our tread. A flash of insight beginning with a sudden spark of curiosity. Maybe that's how empathy is born.

  3. Short and impactful post. Love the punch of the last line!

  4. Reminds me of the story that ends with "...and you picked a fine time to leave me loose heels!" Ya want the set up for that? !yb no klaW & !gnilims peeK

  5. A lovely post. it brought back memories of quiet Winter walks. An amazing lesson in empathy.

  6. Isn't it interesting to wonder, if there had not been footprints to walk in, yours would have been first. Perhaps someone else would have been compelled to walk in your footsteps. Perhaps someone did. Very thought provoking and clever post. Loved it from the title to the end.

    1. Idea of someone following similarly in my footsteps just gave me an inexplicable little shudder...