I’m training my replacement at city hall in preparation for my retirement at the end of March. A couple of people have kindly suggested I am leaving big shoes to fill. While the comments are flattering, they’re also funny because they bring to mind a whole other story about my shoes.
If you work in an office, you’re probably familiar with the way women’s shoes accumulate. We arrive at work in our snow boots or walking shoes and change into something dressier for the day. The dressy shoes get left at the office because there’s no point hauling them home every night. At city hall, the shoes and boots collect on the floor where we hang our coats. Sometimes they sit there for months.
My first couple of years on staff, I could not bring myself to place my shoes next to the others. I would leave them under my desk instead. No, it wasn’t a germ phobia. Nor was I afraid they’d walk away on someone else’s feet.
It was because my shoes were the biggest. I mean, unambiguously, undoubtedly, unmistakably the biggest. My petite co-workers wore the shoe size you’d expect of someone their height. I’m five foot seven and wear size nine. Nothing unusual about that. But when you put a size nine shoe beside a size five shoe, it looks like something you could paddle across Crescent Lake in.
And I have a history concerning my feet.
You see, at the awkward age of eleven or so, I began getting teased about my big feet by an adult who was close to the family and by a big brother who was happy to join the game. I wish I’d been secure enough to laugh along, but I hated it. They said I could be seen coming around the corner because my feet arrived before the rest of me. I grew up convinced I was galumphing around like Bigfoot himself, and no matter how often others said my feet were the right size for my body, it was a hard image to shake.
Eventually, I got over it. I thought. Until I went to work at city hall and saw those dainty shoes beside mine. I couldn’t handle it. And I suddenly realized I hadn’t “gotten over it” at all.
At some point, I recognized my behavior was ridiculous and have been placing my shoes beside the others for some time now. It no longer bothers me. Or it might simply be that the people with the Cinderella-size feet have all retired.
The moral in all this? The taunting should not have been allowed. Although it was “all in good fun,” and although far worse things happen to kids, I needed someone in authority to nip it in the bud.
Can I encourage all of us to play a role here? Body issues already run rampant. Under no circumstances should you tease children or allow them to mock each other about their bodies, or about anything out of their control. Be their protector. The words of adults, especially family members, carry incredible weight—both negative and positive. So use that power to instill in your kids and grandkids a healthy appreciation for their amazing bodies. Teach them to grant others the same respect. Help them memorize Psalm 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.” (The Living Bible).
My replacement at city hall is also one of those dainty-feet ladies. But guess what? She’s going to fill my shoes just fine.