In my 20s, I worked as a teacher on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Montana. I’d heard the expression “walk a mile in his moccasins” attributed to Native Americans. Today, I learned it came from a poem by Mary Lathrop:
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
It’s a sentiment I wish we could embrace more often than Americans appear to be doing at the present time.
My heart goes out to the people suffering in Orlando–the injured and loved ones of lives so pointlessly snuffed out by a man who apparently hated himself so much that he couldn’t bear anyone else’s happiness. I’ve no explanation for why it happened or how to stop it happening in the future. I simply know that as a mother when I walk in their moccasins, I know the emotional pain and trauma for those involved must be excruciating.
What ever happened to “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”?
I’ve been proofreading a non-fiction book on black experience that was written by a very passionate and talented man in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a heart-wrenching book in many ways. As human beings, we have a lot to answer for.
But like the horror in Orlando, I believe the first step toward any solution in understanding. That requires opening our minds, listening, and truly being willing to walk in someone else’s moccasins. Stand in the shoes of the gay man who is happy he is finally accepted and loved for exactly who he is, only to be gunned down by hatred. Stand in the shoes of someone who loved him. Harder, but stand in the shoes of a man so filled with hatred he destroyed others.
Stand in the shoes of a black man asked for identification surrounded by cops with their hands on their guns. Stand in the shoes of a field worker as she watches the rain sluice down the window, knowing there is no work today. Stand in the shoes of Native Americans who deal with the legacy of the white man’s diseases: alcohol and meth.
Stand in the shoes of a young woman alone at night, coming home from a party, who hears footsteps behind her. Stand in those of another woman who knows what’s coming when the man who’s supposed to love her raises his fist.
Stand in your neighbor’s shoes. Your parents. Your children.
Truly do it. Then see what happens.
Coming soon … California Sunshine, a short prequel to California Wishes that I’ll be offering for free!
Casey Dawes is an author of popular contemporary romances.