Not My Shoes

All I could think today when the barefoot man with half a right foot walked up today was "Did Jesus really mean it when he said, 'Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me'"?

Literally, this homeless man had half of a right foot. He's in his 60s and since he was 22 has only had half a foot. He has his big right toe, his heel, and the part of the foot that connects those together, but the whole right side of his right foot, including his other four toes, are gone.

This half-footed man, "Paul," sat down at Bible study. He got coffee and a donut that Sean, my non-homeless friend, brought. I sat next to him and we talked. He said, "I need shoes."

"What size?" I asked.

"Men's 8.5b or women's 10b."

My heart sank and rejoiced at the same time. I pulled up the top of my shoe to check on the size. Women's 9.5.

Would they fit him? I wondered.

Bible study ended. Jonathan, the resident pastor at CitySquare's new Opportunity Center (OC), told Paul he would walk back to the OC building to check and see if there were any shoes.

So Paul and our homeless friend Allen walked alongside us. It was Jonathan, the coffee cart, Sean, Paul, Allen, and me. Our homeless friends moved slowly—Paul for obvious reasons (he's missing half a foot) and Allen because he has a hurt nerve in his back.

Jonathan's shoes didn't work for Paul. That's when it got real for me...

I knew I had a choice -- did I really believe that Jesus meant what he said?

Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.

If I did, the shoes on my feet weren't my shoes, and a man stood in front of me who needed them a thousand times more than I did.

the sandals I happened to have in my car

I can't explain what happened in the next few minutes.

"Do you want to try my shoes," I asked Paul. "They're a half a size smaller, but they might work."

He shook his head no. The look he gave me was I can't take your shoes.

"I have extras in the car," I reassured him. For some strange reason, I did. I was wearing my tennis shoes and had also brought a pair of flip flops today.

So I took them off—my socks too.

He put them on. They fit perfectly.

Ironically (?), before I ever offered Paul my shoes, he had offered me a dollar and a dime. He wanted to give me the only money he had—for no reason. Again, after he put on my shoes, he offered it again.

"Thank you Paul, but it's yours. I don't need it."

It may sound cliche, but in those moments with Paul I had the most real, physical understanding I have ever had in my life had that my shoes were not my shoes; they belonged to God. When I gave them to Paul, they weren't even mine to give. I just had a choice: take Jesus at his word and "do unto the least of these" or keep the shoes under the false understanding that they are even mine to begin with.