"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Story From The Other Shoes

"Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes." 

She thought the gray-haired woman looked familiar, but didn't really have time to investigate. Late again, she hurried to an open spot on the other side of the room from the woman. The yoga class was already on the second set of breathing exercises and the teacher gave her a stern look as she settled in.

What's the big deal? It's only breathing and the closed sign wasn't up yet. I'm not hurting anyone. Her thoughts verged on irritation with the teachers who always made her feel like she was doing something wrong. She paid for these classes, needed them to keep her head clear, didn't appreciate the looks and snide comments. "At least you're predictable." That didn't sound very yogic to her, but she'd heard much worse before and wasn't going to let anyone change her in any way.

Over time she found a second here, a moment there, during and between poses to check out the woman whom she grew more and more convinced she knew from somewhere. And finally she remembered. The hair had been dark brown and longer, the clothing the uniform of an eccentric fifth grade teacher, but the face was basically the same. Her heart did a flip of happy remembering - this woman had been kind to her.

Those years with her son in elementary school had been so hard. No one understood how smart he was, how his behaviors were from boredom and being misunderstood - not because he was bad. She knew no one liked her, saw how all the teachers turned away, suddenly busy and unavailable to listen to her. She knew the principal often told the secretary to have her make an appointment or come back later. She didn't want to sound crazy, be annoying, complain all the time. But she wasn't going to let her son fall through the cracks.

Someone told her to talk to this fifth grade teacher, who apparently had some experience with kids like her son. This teacher listened. Understood. Promised to get help, and followed through. The relief was indescribable, only to be replaced by a deep disappointment when the teacher left the next year.

And here she was again, in a yoga class of all places. There was never any easy way to talk to the teacher, and besides what would she say? But she could be close to her and maybe the teacher would see her and remember and somehow offer kindness again. So even when there were other places to stand in class, she made sure she chose the one that was closest to her old ally, happy to be near her, hoping to be noticed.

photo from Flickr


Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, really? Is this true? What a cool thing if it is!
If not, still a great story. :-)

Anonymous said...

Love it, love it, love it!

You managed this perfectly.

Can't stop smiling....

fullsoulahead.com said...


Wanda said...

A MAY Zing!

Wow. Love the perspective.

Really? Do you know her?

Suzy said...


Love you


Pam said...

Very generous of spirit Deb! Did you find out more about the lady in your yoga class then? I always enjoy your writing. Show such a fine and perceptive understanding of human nature.

Anonymous said...

Very nice.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Made me smile . . . and now I wonder....will she recognize her?

colbymarshall said...

Sweet story--love it!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Effing brilliant.


patti said...

As a former teacher, I can't help but beam at this story.

Beautiful, Deb...true or not!!!

Anonymous said...

Counterpoise to Holding Ground, a haunting effect, well done.

Amber said...

I am blown away by the simple empathy of this story. You are wonderful.


She Writes said...

This has got to be true?

M said...

I am totally blown away by this post. My stomach did a flip...my eyes welled with tears. So many kids like this woman's son...and so many who see the wrong things, and somehow blame the parent.

I can't wait to find out how this one ends.


patricia said...

Okay, so I may be this lady, I fear, for many teachers. Ugh. I love this post. I love how you flipped point of view. Something we're always trying to get students to do well. You should talk to her. Find out if her son is at my school. He may need another savior. =)

kario said...

I'm hooked.

You captured the mom's defensiveness perfectly.

Love you.

Kathryn Grace said...

I have no way of knowing whether I would feel the tears for both of you had I not already read the other posts about Diana/Late Woman, but here they are. I wonder how she experiences the pain she seems to carry into every room she enters. I wonder if she struggles to understand how her very presence causes an almost perceptible shudder through the room. Perhaps she knows. Perhaps she perceives it as power.

How you struggled to achieve compassion and live your values! You show us how to make peace in the world.