They say that before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, if they get angry, you’ll be a mile away and they’ll have a hard time chasing you without shoes.
I think most of us know the true justification for the saying, but either way it’s good advice.
I criticize my teenage kids a lot, so it was good last week to have a chance to try the “walk a mile in their shoes” adage for myself. Fortunately, I did not literally have to wear my son’s smelly shoes to get the full effect. But unfortunately for me, my “walk” was really a run and the mile was actually a little more than three miles. I ran in the annual Turkey Trot cross country race at my son’s high school.
I made it through without collapsing from oxygen deprivation, but only barely. Instead of neatly tearing off the ticket I was supposed to hand to a scorer at the end of the race, I ripped off a huge hunk of paper and threw at somewhere in the direction of the poor guy as I staggered past.
The race was hard.
But it was a pretty cool experience, too. It was fun to find members of the Catonsville cross country team at various points along the course cheering us on. And their encouragement helped, so the next time I’m back on the spectator’s side of the course doing the cheering, I will give it the emphasis the runners deserve. I also now understand how disheartening it can be to come to a slippery slope and how much physical and mental strength it takes to get up that last hill.
So now I’ve run a mile in my son’s shoes and I understand why he doesn’t feel like cleaning his room when he comes home from an exhausting practice.
It’s easy to say I’m glad I did it now because it’s over. The real test will be to see whether I want to walk a mile in his shoes again next year.