The Problem (A Story)

Photo by  Joshua Newton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

Sometimes being barefoot will mean you get burned. 

Yesterday a man (a customer) at Safeway made it his personal mission to [attempt to] get me kicked out of the store.

I walked in carrying Selah and holding Hosanna's hand, and he was staring me down, yelling at me to get shoes on. I looked at him, then decided to just keep walking. Then, following me and the kids, he said, "I am so gonna get you kicked out." "That's what you're doing?" I said, "Making it your personal mission to get me kicked out?" "That's right, dumbass, I'm going to talk to a manager and get your ass kicked out, fucking idiot."

He called me "Shithead," "Asshole," and "Fucking Idiot" as he walked away, and yes, the girls were still with me.

I went to get the only thing I came in the store for, WIPES. He did talk to the manager, and I saw the manager looking at me as he talked with the clerk working the self-checkout section. He never came over and talked to me, but as I was leaving the checker said very gently, "Hey, just so you know, you need to have shoes on in here." "Really?" I said, "I'd like to see your written policy for that, please. Maybe next time I come in we can have a more full conversation." "Okay," she said, "It's like bringing dogs into the store, you know?" "No, I don't know," I said, "but we can talk more the next time I'm in here. I need to go get their brother from preschool."

I didn't think until talking with Courtney that I could have pursued a harassment claim from the angry guy who had HARASSED me with my kids. Oh yeah, as I got the kids in the car, I saw him drive by. I waved, he flipped me off and yelled curses out the window. Hosanna and I had a good conversation about it in the car. When she asked why the "mean old man" was being mean, I told her he was probably hurting on the inside, and for whatever reason, finds it easy to hurt other people that seem different or scary to him. I'm glad for the incident insofar as it sensitizes me to people who experience far worse discrimination every day, because NO ONE should EVER be treated like that.

I'm thankful for barefoot souls and barefoot soles that are creating space for different ways of being, even if it means those who are accustomed to privilege and getting their way have to throw some personal and systemic tantrums.

Sir, you are a manifestation of The Problem, and I feel sorry for you.

Thoughts for moving forward: 

  • The man in question had no second thoughts for seeking the authority to get his way, though I'm sure the sting of not getting exactly what he wanted was his worst poison. How can you stand strong in the face of systemic opposition to you, your cause, or those you ally with?
  • I felt a flurry of all the feelings when he threatened to have me kicked out. It was most of all an opportunity to focus my resolve for love, for courage, and for determination to not take the bullshit from others or to not see those who are marginalized and being scapegoated take it any more. How can compassion guide our response in the midst of dehumanization from people and systems? 
  • Being barefoot (literally and metaphorically) is a challenge to the powers that be. It makes people uncomfortable to see us be free, expressive, kind, joyful, because they are in their own cages of self-hate and judgment. Yet our authentic expression is also an invitation to those who will see and hear to belive, and love fully. Where will you take your next "barefoot" (vulnerable, authentic, courageous) adventure, and what might that cost you?

ometimes being barefoot will mean you get burned, but it's a small price to pay if we really are moving in the direction of liberation for all souls and soles.