Being Beautiful: Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

The peacock rests in shards of broken glass.

The waters came in the middle of the night, creeping under doorways, rising over familiar streets, turning highways, sidewalks, driveways, and neighborhood roads into seas of unrest for the people of Texas. Children’s playgrounds became lakes of muddied confusion while the elderly man with his walking stick and broken heart was lifted into the back of a boat, his wife with Alzheimer’s disease staring blankly into the flood waters, unaware of the winds blowing her hair or why she was wearing an orange life vest.

Mothers and daughters on rooftops wave their hands in the air to be seen. We can’t look away from images of a father holding his dog in one arm, his child in another, wading through waist deep waters. A shivering man is rescued by CNN reporters as he is pulled from the waters just before his truck goes under. A few hours later another reporter at a nearby shelter puts her microphone in the face of a young mother, freezing cold, trembling from fear, asking why she has a microphone in her face at her worst moment when all she has in the world are her babies. The reporter means no harm, but it’s easy to understand the young mother’s reaction.

The waters keep rushing through the avenues, cul-de-sacs and lives of so many people as the rains keep coming down.

From afar, we pause for a moment in our daily routines, catching glimpses of loss, despair, and the stories of survival from our television or iPad. Mostly we count our blessings while sending prayers to the city of Houston and surrounding communities. I flip the channels and brothers, sisters, neighbors, strangers, firemen, nurses, teachers, preachers, Black and White, Asian and Hispanic, young, old, pull each other out of the dark waters, lifting people they just met into their arms and then into boats, helicopters, shelters, and churches.

I feel helpless in my sadness. My heart sinks, and then rises like the waters at the generosity and kindness of my America coming together united, strong, without judgment. We carry on with the business at hand. The waters are not here, but we are careful not to apathetically mute the voices of Texas. We can say it’s not our flood, but as Americans, as human beings, isn’t it really ours even though we are spared its wrath?

I walked through the front parlor of my home a few days ago on my way to check the mailbox and found that my sweet  granny’s framed hand painted peacock had fallen from the wall and was sitting in broken glass. It was her last painting done when she was 80 years old, and we cherish it.

I felt sad, paused a moment, then grabbed the mail and went on with my day. Not until later did I sweep away the shards of glass, carefully moving the irreplaceable painting to safer ground. Maybe we have all become desensitized. People and peacocks deserve better.

I am going to make a donation to flood relief, take Granny’s painting to be reframed, and try to imagine what it feels like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Contact David at [email protected].