now it’s your problem/switching shoes

It was Shirley Schmidt who gave Alan Shore (for anyone who doesn’t know: for shame! they’re characters on Boston Legal) the advice that people will always worry about their own problems, but can’t be expected to care about anyone else’s.

I believe I may have made reference to this piece of wisdom before, but I will do it again, and now that I’ve managed to remember where it came from, it’s all come full circle!

There are a few different ways to interpret this sound bit of advice
that Shirley passed on to Alan, who feared he would lose a case and
couldn’t bear it (for the client, or his own ego).

Today, I chose to take it quite literally, and am focusing on the indisputable fact that we are all selfish beings at our core, and that other than to indulge in some schadenfreude now and again, we will always be more interested in our own problems than we ever are in the affairs of others.

It has occurred to me that in order to challenge people to take
action in any situation, the best tactic to employ is to switch shoes.
Switch shoes, you say? Whatever does she mean? Come now, everyone who speaks the English language (which, by the way, is A LOT of people) has heard, at one time or another, the saying: walk a mile in
his/her/my shoes
. And today, I’m challenging you to give up your comfy Nikes and stylish sandals, and asking you to slide your happy feet into the shoes of someone less fortunate (which will temporarily
transform you, and transport you to another dimension in which you do not live in one of the richest nations in the world, and in which
every day is a matter of life and death).

Okay, got your new shoes? Good. Here we go.

I’m not going to claim that I know what it’s like to be in a region of
the world that is war-torn, or hungry, or destitute, or
disease-ridden, but I want you to think about what it might feel like
if you were all of those things… or even one of them.

What if, every day, you woke up to the sound of bombs going off just a
block away, you had an entire family to feed, two or three members of
which are either wounded or infected with a fatal disease?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’d have no idea what to do; here’s a surprise! I don’t either. But imagine what you would feel
like; imagine the panic, the sadness, the weakness you would feel. You’re tired, you’re hungry, but you’ve got to move on and live. As every day comes to a close, you sigh and thank whatever higher
power to which you prescribe that you are alive to see another one.

Then again, maybe you don’t even have the energy to do that.

And the worst part about it all is that no one seems to care. No one’s able to give you a hand, no one believes in you; the friends you have are in the same situation, and nothing ever seems to get better. You survive, you go on, but it’s not a happy existence. You’ve got to become a slave in your own home in order to have anything.

Imagine then, that you’ve discovered that there are people in the world who didn’t have to struggle every day as you do. Imagine what it would be like to know there are people in the world who have every luxury, every wonderful thing that you’ve never known, and that these people were wasteful and callous and violent; that they were bossy and indulgent and worst of all, that they didn’t care enough to share their wealth. How would you feel? I don’t know about you, but I would feel incredibly bitter and jilted.

That, and I would wonder why “they” had all of the money and prosperity, and I had none (then, of course, in certain situations – like Afghanistan and Iraq and other such places, one might also feel as though the values and morals of these rich people were just not permissable, and that something should be done about such terrible behaviour). And then, low and behold, these wealthy giants send in the troops, and you have the choice to rejoice or rebel… what do you do? what DO you do?

Now: how badly do you want your old shoes back? And, if I gave them
back to you, would you give them up again? Better yet, would you give
them to someone who needed them, knowing that person could be you, in another time and place?

And, of course, the most important question is: did reading this have any effect on you, or was it just a pointless, 5 minute diversion?

Decide; then let me know.


One thought on “now it’s your problem/switching shoes

  1. Well said!
    Many people do not care to think of anyone but their selves. This ignorance of the world around them and their self absorption will be their undoing.

    If people just spent a little more time trying to help each other out instead of helping their selves to what ever they can get, the world might be a better place.

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