Please don’t step on my blue suede shoes…

blue suede shoesMy foot hurts.

To be exact, the third toe on my right foot is hurting.

Somehow I got a small cut on it and both my sock and shoe keep rubbing against it.  In fact, I discovered today that I cannot even walk normal because of it.  I kind of have this hunchback of Notre Dame gait.   No wonder women are bringing their children in closer as I hobble by them.  “Mommy, why is that man walking like that?”    Ugh.

I was walking out of a store last night, every step a painful one and some guy walking in looked at me with odd compassion.  He never said a word but he looked at me like I was a wounded warrior.  Perhaps he thought I was injured in Desert Storm?  Or maybe he thought I suffered a career ending sports injury?   Or that I permanently damaged my leg after heroically pulling a small child out of a burning house?

Nope.

I merely have a teeny, weeny baby cut on my 3rd toe.  Who would have thought that such a little injury could impact the rest of my body so much?

Now that I’m home with my shoes off and feet kicked up, I’m pondering a few things about this underwhelming injury.

The smallest cut still hurts. I cannot overemphasize how ridiculously small this cut is.  Even so, IT HURTS!  However, a physical cut will eventually heal but what about the verbal cuts we give to others each day?   We toss a verbal dart at a co-worker.  We use biting sarcasm with our spouse.   Maybe you speak in curt, annoyed tones with your parents.  Or yell at your kids?  We might even say what we say teasingly or jokingly but others can receive it seriously and personally.  I still remember with vivid clarity some choice words said to me by various people over the years.  The nursery rhyme promises, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me.”   We all know this is a lie.    No matter how small, words can still hurt and leave a permanent bruise.

Every part of the body is important. I am not sure what role my third toe plays.  Some of my other toes have been given names like “Big toe” or “pinky toe”. So insignificant is this one that I had to assign a number to it just so you could know which one I was talking about. To my knowledge, it can’t do anything spectacular.  I can’t move it independently of the other toes.   It doesn’t give me any athletic edge (that I know of).  No one ever compliments it when I’m, say, at the beach.  “Wow, you have a handsome third toe.”   In the 43 years that it has been with me, I don’t recall ever giving it any thought – until tonight.  But cut the little sucker open and all of a sudden I’m thinking it plays a much more important role than I ever thought. I can’t even walk normal because that little #3 is hurting. It’s affecting my body more than I ever thought possible.

This makes me wonder how many #3 toes are in my life.  How many people are a part of my “body” that I barely give any thought to – until I’m forced to?  Do I know the name of the janitor at work?  Do I know the family background of the woman who does the menial tasks at the office?  Do I give eye contact to the teenager at the check-out counter of the grocery store or even address this person by name?  Though these people may not be a part of my family or in my friendship circle, they are a part of my life – my daily body.   And I’m realizing that every part of the body is important – even those who play (like #3 toe) an unseen role.

If one part suffers, all suffer with it. If you were to ask me how I’m doing tonight (and I felt like complaining), I would say I’m in pain.  But isn’t that interesting? Technically, only my one dinky toe hurts but that somehow affects my whole outlook.  All that tells me is that the way a body works, if one part suffers, all suffer with it.   My hands might be having a great day but does it really matter if I can barely walk?   How important is a great hair day if my bad breath could stop an attacking bear?

So, who in your “body” is suffering today?  Do you feel it?  Is there a friend that needs some of your attention?  Is there a troubled teen that needs your time? Is there a single mom not able to pay her rent and needs your money? Is there an elderly widow who is lonely this time of year and needs your hug?  Do you know someone who merely needs your ear?  There are parts of the body that are suffering out there, the question is do you notice it?   More importantly, do you even care?

I got a phone call this weekend from a man I have not talked to in over 18 years.   We were good friends in high school – communicated briefly in our 20’s and then that relationship went dormant for the last 18 years.  We didn’t have a “falling out.”  There was no broken relationship – we just simply fell out of touch.   In that time, lots can happen.   For me, it was college, marriage, kids, divorce, moving, unemployment, jail, etc.

Out of “the blue” I received a phone call.   It turns out, he heard through the grapevine, that I had a rough 2013 (understatement).  So rough that he felt compelled to break the nearly two decade silence and reach out to me.  In many ways and at no fault of his own, I became a #3 toe in his life.  Easily hidden.  Unnoticeable.  Adding little to no value to his daily life.   Merely a small, distant part of his childhood memories.  And yet, he heard that I was hurting and could not ignore that fact.  He invested the time to track me down and took 67 minutes out of his family schedule to find out how I’m really doing.  At the end of the conversation, he asked how he could help me in my diminished state.  If you’ve ever been a “number 3 toe”, words cannot express how it feels to be treated with “Big Toe” status.

Next time you think there are people in your life that you do not need, think again. It is not accidental that you were placed in your family, your school, your plot of land, or your workplace.  There is a reason you shop at your particular grocery store, get your clothes from that department store and get gasoline at that specific gas station.  The plumber, mechanic, dentist, and barista are in your life for a reason and it may not just be because of your toilet, transmission, cavity or coffee.  There is a reason you are in relationships with those in your sphere of influence. If the other toes in your world are rejoicing, rejoice. If one of them is suffering, figure out what your role is in helping them.  You make up a body and the body is only truly healthy if every member is healthy too.

As for me, do me a favor… please don’t step on my blue suede shoes.  My #3 toe would appreciate it. 🙂

I Corinthians 12:14-27
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

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