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Walk in My Shoes

Try walking in someone else's shoes for a day.

I firmly believe each one of us can do anything, but it’s not always going to be easy. Craft, skill, even challenges take time to overcome. Walk with me as I illustrate a few micro stories around this theme.

This past Saturday, we drove to Pala, California to Oceanview Mine to dig for rocks, gems, and precious stones. . .my niece is an aspiring jewelry designer. She was surprised for her 10th birthday to find her own stones. We went on a windy dirt road, drove through a lot of gravel and bumps to reach this rural mine. 2 hours into the process, we had worked up quite a sweat. It was a mixture of 1849 Gold mining and pioneer living, I was envisioning the wagons pulling up for our meal rations. As you know, I have a pretty active imagination. . .

Iler Woods attempting to mine for precious stones.

Nevertheless, the process of finding these precious stones is long and arduous.. . It consisted of digging, finding rocks, soaking them in water, and sifting through a lot of dirt. Our artisan for Iler Woods- Autumn Years Enterprises- has traveled all over the state- to find exotic stones in dry creek beds to desert land to find the special pieces she curates in her jewelry collection. This act of mining gave me a glimpse of what this artisan works for, the journey she goes on for each piece she creates.

Two weeks ago, my daughter and I attempted to sew pillows for her teacher for a Christmas gift. This one hour sewing project turned into a 24 hour plus project. The coin phrase “That’s so easy. You can do it,” was not something we were embodying.

The simple act of threading the bobbin, stepping on the pedal, and sewing material just wasn’t working. I googled it, youtubed the problem, face timed a friend, called my mother in law, and I was still stumped. The art of sewing is yet another skill that takes time to craft and practice. As I glanced at the merchandise from our holiday shop, I was reminded once again that Our artisans who sew for Iler Woods are so talented and have honed these skills for many years. I, on the other hand, was frustrated and wanted to speed up the process to get this project done, but unfortunately, this was a task that was going to take more time on my part.

Walking in the shoes of fellow artisans was interesting and eye opening. It gave me new respect for each individual’s skill set. However, to truly “walk in someone’s shoes,” individuals have to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Take for instance. . . My friend who has undergone 6 rounds of IVF, her tenacity and will to try to have a baby leaves me speechless. I have never experienced the pain and loss that women who have struggled with infertility have gone through. The heartache and pain I have witnessed from the sidelines of my friend’s journey has been hard to say the least.

My friend has heard. . .“Just be happy, be thankful for what you have. Don’t put so much emphasis on what you don’t have.” All of these coin phrases are easier said than done. If we all paused for a moment, and truly tried to walk in the shoes of another person, we might start to realize that all of our struggles are real.

Have you thought about the high school seniors who are currently applying for college ? My cousin in New York who has spent her high school career preparing for this pivotal year, has been deprived of so many adolescent milestones, just like so many other students during this pandemic. Many adults say, “They have their whole life ahead of them. What’s one year?” That is easier said than done. Toddlers, children, adolescents, teenagers, college students. . . their heartaches are as real as all of our challenges.

A reality check this holiday season. . .

What about friends who have lost jobs during the Pandemic and now worrying about rent, mortgage prices, and maxing out credit cards to pay for groceries.

While some people worried if Amazon Prime would be delivering their gifts on time this season, many people were worrying about where they would be living by the end of the month. My daughter reminded me of this exact topic when she decided to start a food drive for the Unity Center at our local food bank.

This season alone, more than 5,000 families in our community were being serviced. When we saw a glimpse of the warehouse and trucks that were donating toiletries, clothing, and the bagged lunches for our homeless population, we were shown a stark truth of how many people have been suffering this year.

Consumed with our own microcosm, our own stresses, we tend to forget what others are going through. This is not a rebuke of our selfish desires or a jab at individuals who are not experiencing the same hardships as others, it’s a moment of reflection.

How many times have you been consumed with your own stresses of work, of the perfect plans that went awry, or the inconveniences that you are now experiencing? Now, try on someone else’s shoes. . . Are your challenges as heavily weighted as before?

I had a dear friend, who was a Nonna to me and my family for many years. She was an old Sicilian woman, who looked like the perfect grandmotherly type of lady. After one conversation with this 85 year old woman, you would find out that she had evolved with the times. She was relatable, she was genuinely interested in the well being of any person, and was open minded to virtually any controversial issue. She understood all ages and her demeanor allowed each person to feel welcome. She strove to not just feel empathetic towards others, but to help take action.

Iler Woods Vintage Map
Iler Woods Vintage Map- past, present, and future goals

I wonder if in this New Year, we could all take action. 2020 was a pivotal year and we had a lot of time to watch and see the injustices that have simmered to the surface.

Whose shoes are you willing to walk in and move forward with action? You might surprise yourself what the New Year has in store for you.

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