In the 2014 film, The Cobbler, Adam Sandler is a second generation cobbler in New York, who discovers that when he uses a specific “stitcher” machine, he’s able to put on his customer’s shoes, and become them.
Of course there’s the discovery scene of him trying on shoes of all types of people in the mirror AND there’s the scene of him in the shoes of a young man with his good-looking girlfriend, AND the scene where being in someone else’s shoes goes all wrong. And it’s sweet and funny, with just the right amount of drama to make it an instant classic.
I hadn’t heard of it, when I saw it, and I almost never hear anyone mention it, but it’s a must-see film. As intended, it embodies the Cherokee Proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”
It is only when the main character literally walks a mile in others’ shoes that he is able to see the world in the wider perspective that was there all along, enabling him to value his own journey even more.
My wife and I, when living in Denver, had the privilege of being invited by our friend and his folks up to their family cabin in Grand Lake at the Northern Entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and on the North Fork of the Colorado River.
We fished for hours and caught nothing, and it was wonderful. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and saw two moose trotting about. We hiked up a mountain in the dark and stared for hours at the endless stars while listening to stories from my friend’s dad. We walked through the tiny shops, ate at the local restaurants, and took photos of way too much. It was gorgeous. It was amazing. It was a very memorable time.
When we were saying our goodbyes and many ‘thank yous,’ before heading back into the city, my friend’s mom said something that I’ve never forgotten. She said, ” We’ve been coming here our entire lives and love it, but being able to experience this place through your eyes as you’ve seen it for the first time has been a blessing and a reminder of why this place is so special.”
Earlier this week, my wife and I brought our daughter to her inaugural Disneyland trip at 20 months old and it was truly magical. We love Disney, Pixar and Walt Disney’s story, but, as young parents, we were concerned.
Our main concerns were that the weather was forecast to be rain, that our daughter wouldn’t enjoy the rides, and that we would waste a ton of time bringing her back and forth to the hotel for a nap. But, as luck would have it, the forecast was clear, she loved the rides, and she fell asleep for two hours in her stroller, while we chatted and relaxed mid-day. It was perfect.
The first ride we went on was Winnie The Pooh, and I was anxious about the entire experience as we waited in line. I imagined her wanting to get out or off. I imagined her crying and screaming. I imagined her getting scared. My wife was anxious, too, but we had to test the waters.
Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life. Most of which have never happened.”
Our biggest problem ended up being different from our concerns. She was having way too much fun on the rides. From Pooh, to Dumbo, to It’s a Small World, to Pirates of the Caribbean, she was in blissful awe, and only got upset when we needed to exit, as she signed “more” with her hands while saying it aloud.
She danced with Mary Poppins, posed with Pluto, enthusiastically watched The Path to Jedi, and enjoyed visiting Minnie Mouse in her home in Toontown. She loved it all more than we could have anticipated.
We let her walk by our sides much of the time and she would stop to point at the seagulls, ducks, and pigeons meandering about and be elated.
She climbed up the stairs to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Tree House and wanted to do it, again. She saw a wall that she thought was playdough in Toontown, and played in front of it for 20 minutes. After half the day, she pointed out every picture of Mickey and Minnie, saying, “Moooooooouse!” It was adorable.
I finally got it. It finally made sense to me. It clicked.
It was only in living Disneyland through the absolute and complete experience of my 20 month old that I realized what living life in another person’s shoes really meant. It’s not serving the poor. It’s not mirroring your prospect. It’s not reading the same books as your icons. It’s not learning through observation. It’s literally sharing the feelings of another person.
I guess you can say I put on my baby’s tiny shoes that day. I’m not sure if my emotional quotient got any higher, but I know that my love for my wife and daughter got deeper. And that’s what really matters, right?