The shoes were cheap and worn. They were light beige and scuffed, strappy and open, with very tall heels. They were the kind of shoes that a woman would wear to make her legs look extra long and noticeable. The kind of shoes that a woman would wear to attract attention, usually men, often for money. But there was no woman. Only the shoes, left lying there, discarded in a heap, in a corner behind an ice machine, in an outdoor strip mall. They looked terribly cold and painful and woefully abandoned.
I looked around for any other items that might explain the presence of the shoes. But there were no more garments – no brown bag of donated clothes, no plastic carryall of worldly possessions. Just the shoes. And nowhere to be seen was there a woman who might have worn them.
It made me think of a quote about Faith. About how Faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” And here were the shoes – the evidence of the woman not seen. And, I suspect, the evidence of so much else in the world that we just do not see. Too often, we notice the shoes – but not the person who has worn them … and lost them … and is now without shoes.
I suspect it’s rather like noticing flowers that are no longer blooming, but we don’t seem to see the absence of the bees. Or we may see animals dying, but not the haunting human greed that is killing them and their habitat. We may see a child unable to read, but not the days he goes without food. Some of us may even see the righteousness in a war, but somehow miss the rightness of peace.
Perhaps it was like that on the first Christmas Eve. The infamous Inn Keeper simply saw his building filled to capacity. He saw strangers sleeping in all his rooms and even on rugs in his parlor and eating all the food in his kitchen. He saw their shoes piled up at his door. And so he couldn’t see the frightened pregnant teenager and her exhausted husband. All he saw were two more pairs of shoes looking to take another piece of his hospitality.
I suspect we all need to lift up our eyes to see faces, rather than shoes at times. Perhaps we could lift up our eyes and see empty hands that may be lost and trembling, and carry extra coins to place in them. Perhaps we could stuff more snacks in our pockets to help lift up the spirits of dogs who are lost and foxes who are hungry.
Perhaps we could lift up our eyes and scatter wildflower seeds when no one is watching. We could definitely scatter more patience and sudden smiles and offers of assistance among struggling service workers, and strangers with unknown griefs, and passers-by who are trying to carry too much and dropping things along the way.
I read recently about an artist who stops strangers on the street and asks them to draw pictures of each other’s faces. And, by doing so, they begin to really connect with each other. They lose their fear of one other. They recognize their shared humanity. They see into each other’s hearts. They see each other.
That story gives me hope. After all, the first part of that quote I mentioned about Faith being “the evidence of things not seen” starts out by saying that Faith is also “the substance of things hoped for.”
My hope for the woman who abandoned the worn beige high heels behind the ice machine is that she simply took them off because they hurt her feet. And that she changed into some comfy, low-heeled slippers, and got a safe ride home. And that she has a safe home.
My hope for the rest of us is that we always notice the shoes left behind – but, more importantly, I hope that we never stop looking for the woman who left them there. The woman without shoes. My faith is that we’ll always have an extra pair of comfy slippers under our arms to share with her when we see her.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And, sometimes, I suspect, it’s evidenced by a pair of cheap, abandoned, high-heeled shoes. And it is substantiated by a barefoot woman who is seen.