Until I Walk In Your Shoes

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I just watched a video that moved me this morning. It was a video of a young lady that had just came from shopping at a grocery store. She was in line and the cashier was a young man. An older woman was in line in front of her. It was apparent this young man was having difficulties doing his job. The older lady was ripping him to shreds. I am sure her yelling at him didn’t help. She was really bringing this young man down. The younger woman was anxious as well, she wanted to get on with her day, but she had enough of this lady bringing this young man down. She stepped in and said something to the older lady. The young man came around and gave the younger woman a hug and started crying. During the confrontation she found out this young man’s mother had committed suicide that morning. This young man was compelled to come to work so he could pay the rent that was due along with the other bills. Needless to say the older woman along with the others standing in line was quite embarrassed and taken back.
Years ago my husband lost his job. He had never received any further education after high school. He felt this was his opportunity to get some training. He went to our local Vocational College and studied heating and air conditioning. The only problem was I did not work and we had three small girls. It was our decision to go on food stamps to help us through this difficult time. One evening we were in the supermarket buying our groceries. The clerk in front of us had been jovial with all the customers before us. We stepped up telling her we were paying with food stamps. She treated us poorly, and was not pleasant at all. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and wanted to escape as soon as I could. She had judged us as being poor and lazy and all those negative thoughts associated with those on food stamps. I wanted to yell at her that my husband was going to school to better himself and to make our lives better and how dare she judge us, but I didn’t. With my head bent down, and a low self-esteem and feeling defeated I left quietly. I stood over in the corner to see the same clerk return to her jovial ways with the next customer. 
The young lady ended her video reminding people you have no room to judge someone until you have walked in their shoes. I often hear stories from people who are struggling. Some stories I believe others I find hard to believe. Others come in and it doesn’t bother them to ask for help while others it is a struggle and an embarrassment for them. I have learned it isn’t my place to judge. I have no idea what they are going through or what has happened in their life.  “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5, James 4:12,  says this “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
There is a famous proverb that says, “before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.
It’s all about empathy. What is empathy all about? Being able to empathize means to be capable of identifying and understanding another person’s feelings, without experiencing them for yourself at that particular moment. It is the ability to literally experience1 the world from another person’s perspective; to walk in their shoes, to view life from their living conditions and to feel what it feels like to be that person. (Taken from Steve Mueller; “Developing Empathy: Walk a mile in someone’s shoes”)
It is so easy for us to be critical of someone today. It’s easy to lash out just because we think our time is valuable and people are wasting it. It’s so easy to lump sum people together just because we don’t like their lifestyle or their choices or because of a perception we have of a certain culture or group of people. 
We cannot know the experiences someone has lived through or what they are living through in the present until we take the time to show enough concern and question what is going on. Until we are willing to reach out and search for the reasons behind their behavior we have no room to judge one another. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” Theodore Roosevelt
I had a young lady who came in one day and she was very abrasive and rude. I simply asked her why she was so abrasive and rude. I went on to tell her I was there to help her. She confessed she had never had to ask for help before and this was hard for her. We both ended up in tears as she shared her story. When we left she left a different person. 
Walking in someone else’s shoes means reaching out and letting your guard down. It’s being vulnerable. It’s about caring for others. It’s about showing others their lives  matter to you. 
I am sure the older lady’s life (or at least I hope so) in the video was changed that day and just maybe the next time she has a clerk that is having a hard time she will take the time to be a little kinder and offer some gentle, kind words. Maybe her time in line won’t matter as much. The young lady who stood up for the young man, well I am sure her life changed too. I am sure she was thankful for speaking up and maybe it made her a little bolder to do it again the next time someone is bringing someone down. 
The young man knew someone cared and stepped forward and his life was changed. His boss came to his aid to see what was going on. If the boss didn’t know his circumstances before he did then. There was a ripple effect not only in the store that day, but with everyone that has viewed the video. 
Before you criticize someone who is wasting your time, causing you grief, or testing your patience, take the time to find out what’s going on, offer a kind word, or better yet, be Christ like and treat them as He would. Luke 6:31 is a perfect reminder, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We have all had difficult days and would like to be treated fairly; so would others. 
“It’s not our job to play judge and jury, to determine who is worthy of our kindness and who is not. We just need to be kind, unconditionally and without ulterior motive, even – or rather, especially – when we’d prefer not to be.” Josh Radnor
Who needs to know you care today? Whose shoes are you willing to walk in today?
Dear God: Thank you for gentle reminders that I should not judge someone because I don’t walk in their shoes. Remind me daily to be kind and lift others up and not bring them down. When others are bringing people down, may I be so bold as to stand up for others. May I step in and offer words of encouragement and kindness, but most of all let them see you in me and may I follow your example and love others. Amen 
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