Every time I am back in New York I marvel, stare, and wonder at the diversity of people found in one place. One finds all shapes, sizes, colors, heights, and weights in this city. It is not as if one comes to a melting pot with hundred of different flavor; this is a kettle where the flavors – ethnic, cultural, economic, religious, and generations – have merged, combined, stewed, and produced for such a long time that things are truly a new mix! When you look at someone guessing his or her history is at just that, a guess.
Last night I took refuge in the Russian Sauna on 10th Street. The searing heat, calm conversations, and ice water brought relief in old yet familiar ways. Looking around me it would have been easy to begin the judgment. Some wore their emotional stories out on their sleeves for any and all to see. Others worked on their demon of self-appreciation. A few tried to center the conversation on their own experience of a similar sauna somewhere else, usually L.A. Most sat quietly, soaking up the heat, finding relief in the cold bucket or soaked towel.
It is easy to pass judgment on the people around me. They lives are truly far different from mine. Their struggles are so obvious, a baby should know the way to happiness. I thought about the conclusion and then looked at their shoes. They were the same as mine! They had the scuffmarks of life catching them on the edges. They reflected the wear and tear of previous pain. The struggle to keep life together was clear and evident on every pair of shoes in sight.
Paul’s admonition kept circling in my mind. “Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself.” (Romans 2.1) We share so much in common, our desire for family and a sense of belonging, our thirst to know God and understand what relationship if any we have with Him, and a quest for peace.
We share shoes and a God who reaches out to every person on the walk.