The Souls of Our Feet
Printed in The Broadcaster Issue 5/Vol. 10/Winter 2013

“Do you have a pair of shoes?” he asks, looking at the last two pairs on the rack in my office.

What I have wouldn’t possibly fit him; might not even be to his liking.  They are “ladies” shoes, small size, last season.

Today, the first snowflakes fell.  He was wearing someone else’s shoes, at least second-hand, and they showed the miles they had travelled.

Not just a scuff, but a full-fledged hole; not just a worn heel, but a complete separation of the heel from the rest of the shoe.  Not simply a fray or tatter, but a rip right from one side to the other, like a mouth that opened and closed each time he took a step.

“Would duct tape help?” I offered.

Then the story is told.  I was out at the Rez the other day and didn’t get a ride back and it was raining by the time I got back to my camp.

From this I knew he had walked far in these shoes, had not been out of them for days, probably slept in them.

“How are your feet?” I ask, as he takes a seat on the lone chair.  I see him visibly relax as the burden is lifted from his tired, aching, bruised and blistered soles.  I wonder if this might be, in some ways, how his soul is also faring.

As he carefully avoids the topic of the state of his feet, we begin to talk about his camp, his family, his trip out of town.  The conversation deepens and I bring out new socks, some lotion and powder, the first aid kit.

His eyes brighten and he wonders if he could get a bandage for a blister.  I hand him a towel and some soap, invite him to wash his feet and we would take a look at them.  And he does.

The blisters were big, on the tops, sides, bottoms of his feet and between his toes.  Where they had popped were red, infected areas on his feet.

His wet, tattered, stinky socks were lying in a heap on the floor.

As he gingerly rubbed the lotion into his injured feet, he relaxed more, smiled a bit,  and then continued telling his story.  I wanted this healing time to last as long as possible.

With no new shoes available to him, powder was the next best alternative.  A liberal shake into both shoes and some on his feet had us both covered in white dust!

“Did you want bandages?”  “No, I’ll let them get some air.”

Very carefully, we drew on those new socks and, just before he put his shoes back on, we added alpaca fur insoles that had been donated last winter.

The wet broken shoes had not changed in that time.  Had we?