the lower extremities

i walked past a doorway the other night, and there was a man, passed out, mouth open. it was one of those times i slowed a little to make sure he was still breathing. i should have slowed even more, probably. but i also didn’t want to wake him, either. truth be told, he didn’t look like he was going to wake up any time soon. but, i noticed something as i went along my way, something that i’ve thought about and remarked on other occasions and something i will talk about now. he had his shoes off.

a simple gesture, a small detail to most, but something striking to me. if you’ve lived in the city for any amount of time, you might have an idea of an uncomfortable scene — a homeless person, sitting somewhere in public, taking their shoes and socks off, revealing feet that look terrible and smell worse. it’s one of those things where you’re wondering, “what are you doing? what are you thinking? why is this happening right here?” if you’ve never lived in a big city, there’s a near 100% chance you’ve never seen this ever in your life. and in some ways, i don’t blame you for being happy to never have run across this. it’s gross, it’s disturbing, it’s heartbreaking.

but, it leads me to realize all sorts of things i take for granted. ways to be grateful i couldn’t have even dreamed of. things that i couldn’t have known to perceive were blessings before. the shoes thing. you might have had a bad pair on (ladies, you especially know what i’m talking about) where you are getting a blister or the heels are too high, and you know that they HAVE to come off, and soon. but by and large, walking around in a pair of shoes all day isn’t a burden and when you come home, you have the option (and many people instantly choose to) to take them off. you can take your shoes off, put them down, walk around in socks or bare feet, whichever you choose.

there’s no danger there. it’s temperature controlled. there’s no rocks or dirt or glass. you can lay down or sit. there’s comfort. your stuff is all there in various places. there’s just a million different options. but you can take your fucking shoes off. that’s so bizarre, but so important. you’ve come home after a long day and taken your shoes off, right? and felt how good that feels? imagine just not being to really EVER do that. to never feel okay about taking your shoes off, because you’re always outside. always on the move. always in public. always somewhere where you might need to get up and get going. always somewhere kind of … well, not so safe. even just in the fact that you just feel you might need to be mobile at a moment’s notice. you’d want your shoes on, right? you don’t want to be hightailing it down the sidewalk in your bare feet, right?

but imagine how long it would take before your socks got horrendously gross and your feet got just awful in there. imagine how long it would take before everything was rubbing on everything and everything hurt all the time. not too long, right? add to all of that any sort of being overweight, or diabetes, or addiction issues, and you’re fucked, brother, you’re fucked. i just think about that and it makes me so sad. the thought that for most of the day, for most of the week, for most of your life, you would feel unable to take your shoes off.

because really, when you think about it … other than your genitals (which are a given, and pretty well covered all the time out of general decency and necessity) — what’s the most vulnerable spot you have? i mean inch for inch? i’d say the feet rank right up there. you need them to get you around, and they’re a pretty sensitive lot. get a rock or glass or a rusty nail up in there, and it’s all bad business. they’re your balance beams, they’re the foundation of the whole structure. they need to be taken care of.

it’s just hard to think about. when ruminating, i was immediately brought to the story of the last supper and jesus washing the disciples’ feet. (there’s quite a bit of information about “foot washing” on wikipedia.) and again, it has always struck me as such an intimate act. to let someone wash your feet, or to wash someone’s feet. wouldn’t that just one of the most intimate things you could do for someone? and that jesus uses it to say that neither he is above his disciples, nor they should be above the people that they call upon. they should go and wash the feet of other people. interesting stuff, i say.

so, i don’t know. i’m just grateful that i have a place i can come home to and that i can take off my shoes when i sleep. strange, but sometimes, i think it’s good to be grateful for small things.

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