The Man With Bare Feet

“We know things in their depth and beauty only by a second gaze of love.”

This concept of a “second gaze of love” is what Richard Rohr refers to as “mirroring.” It means to look at another human and to see yourself in them, but, most times, it takes another look to see this – to see past hurt, shame, failure – and to find yourself sitting there, too.

On the bus today, an older man had a lot of trouble getting on. His every movement seemed to be in slow motion as he boarded. Because I was seated further back, I didn’t quite see why this was. Not until he was finding his seat did I see his bare feet busting out of what were once shoes. And as quickly as I found myself looking, I turned away.

I thought about how it is five degrees out and he isn’t wearing socks.

I didn’t look again.

As he got off a few stops later, I carefully watched the reaction of those who waited to board. It was the same as mine: curiosity and a quickness to look away. No one could keep their eyes on his reality.

Why do we do this? Manners certainly are not the only answer to this. It is instead a strong urge to pretend what is really isn’t. I felt this when I saw him. It is a first glance without connection.

Reading Rohr’s words convicted me. They reminded me what it means to see my neighbor as myself, and to love my neighbor as myself. I could have offered a smile or a conversation. Instead, out of shame, I chose to look at my feet covered in socks and in a pair of shoes.

This older man, he was friendly with the bus driver. He also had little comments towards people getting on. They were kind remarks like, “Do you like those kinds of shoes?” A genuine interest in a person’s wardrobe, maybe trying to get a gauge on a new pair of shoes. This kind man, the one without the shoes in five degree weather, was giving a second look to those who only gave a first look.

And this is how I am reminded that the love of God is found in connection; a second look.

Sweet man with bare feet, you’ve taught me so much, and I’m sorry if my silence and first and only look dismissed this in those moments with you.

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