by Lydia Floren
When we first moved to Wisconsin, I was surprised to find that, when people came to visit, they always left their shoes at my door. I soon learned that Wisconsinites shed their shoes, just like they do their coats, when they enter someone’s home. Children learn to do this almost before they begin to walk. In fact, around here, taking your shoes off when you cross a threshold ranks right up there with the “yes ma’am’s” and “no ma’am’s” of the South: good when you do it, really rude when you don’t.
At first this shoe-at-the-door thing didn’t make much sense. But that was because we moved up here in July. By December, the reason became obvious: snow. Well, not just snow – the sand and slush and salt and mud that accompany the winter months. Taking shoes off keeps everyone’s houses from being dirtied by the outside mess. This is such an ingrained habit in our Northwoods culture that, even when the weather is nice and the streets are clear, everyone still sheds their footwear when they come inside.
We each have some mud on our lives, especially this time of year.
Extra commitments, financial concerns, worry about family, renewed grief, loneliness. Some of the stuff is obvious while other parts – like the stirrings of old hurts – stay hidden beneath the surface.
As we step into each other’s lives, wouldn’t it be cool if we would remember to first take off our “muddy shoes”? That might mean setting aside happenings from earlier in the day: a difficult circumstance, or unpleasant encounter, or hurry or stress. Maybe it means withholding judgment, extending grace, forgiving, getting out of our own perspective and choosing to enter theirs.
This holiday season we are going to have many distractions.
And we are going to step into a lot of lives.
May we remember to set aside our stress and tread gently, giving others (and ourselves) extra grace.
BTW, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this “extra grace-giving” became a habit we practiced all year long?
Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4