I love the feel of a hardwood floor when I am barefoot. The natural softness of the wood overwhelms everything else. Wood is neutral, in the shade it is cool, in the sun it is hot. It never apologizes for its look. It simply is what it is. Natural, letting everyone benefit from its presence.
As I walked into a room with a hardwood floor, I was struck by the feeling of the entrance. It is customary to remove your shoes. There was a bench just inside the door to help in the process. For those that notice the feelings captured by bare feet, the entrance area had a very different texture and feel. The natural smoothness was replaced by the texture of exposed and worn wood grain. The natural softness that I expected was, in this spot, hard ridges. The color was a worn gray, as if the wood had absorbed the stories of many journeys.
Everything was different. My reflection on the change centered on what had been shared. In one spot, the hardwood had met the outdoors. The sand of many steps, asphalt, dirt, and the city, had left their mark. The hardwood had not come in prepared. Its surface was the same as it was for clean feet or woolen socks. If it had only known! The outcome of mixed interactions would have been different.
The metaphor extends into my life. I often respond to others as if they were not speaking. While it is easy to miss the conversation hidden between the lines, often the story is clear. I can recall a friend offering me a special dish. Wisdom suggests that I should think through the options and be prepared. “If he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.” (1 Corinthians 10.28)
Life invites us to respond.