Walk a mile in my shoes

On my walk to work this morning I spotted this very uniquely decorated van. I’ve never been much of a fan of Elvis but the song lyrics displayed in the window really grabbed my attention.

“Walk a mile in my shoes
Just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes”

As I stood there on the pavement reading those words they seemed to me to be a powerful call to empathy and compassion, an invitation to withhold judgement until we’ve really considered things from other people’s perspective. I immediately Googled the lyrics and found this fantastic video of Elvis performing the song live in Las Vegas in 1970.

Upon watching the video, I was immediately curious and moved by the words Elvis shares before the music starts, so I Googled them too, and discovered that they’re from a Hank Williams song.

“You never stood in that man’s shoes or saw things through his eyes or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies. So help your brother along the way, no matter where he starts, for the same God that made you, made him too, these men with broken hearts.”

I found the full version of the Hank Williams song on YouTube and was moved once again by this stark reminder of the destitute place that many broken-hearted men eventually end up.

This version performed by Johnny Cash is also really worth watching.

According to the Autumn 2018 rough sleeping statistics produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a shocking 84% of rough sleepers in the UK are men.

I’m strongly reminded of the work I do with A Band of Brothers, mentoring young men who are in or close to being in the criminal justice system. Many of these young men have never had any experience of a positive male role model and do not know how to help themselves escape from the difficult life situations and self-destructive patterns they’re stuck in.

These men may not be broken-hearted yet but many of them are just clinging on, only a hair’s breadth away from being swallowed up by a system that will either break them or make hardened criminals out of them.

Today I feel strangely connected to a lineage of men, including Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash (who famously performed in Folsom Prison where the remarkable 2017 documentary The Work is also set), who feel a great empathy for their fellow men, their brothers, knowing that while in many ways the scales of our society are tipped in the favour of men, in other ways they really are not.

Anxiety and the benefits of ambient music

This lovely short film tells a very personal story about how a young man suffering with anxiety and prone to panic attacks discovers a new universe of relaxation, safety and a feeling of groundedness as a result of listening to ambient music at home and on his headphones as he makes his way through the world. In a society that can often feel relentlessly busy and stressful, it’s simple practices like these that enable us to slow down enough to be able to check in with ourselves and get a sense what’s going on for us underneath all the noise and static.


More resources

Brené Brown on the value and importance of vulnerability

This TED talk on vulnerability by shame researcher Brene Brown has been watch over six million times – and for good reason! Based on many years of research, in the video Brené explores the way in which our ability to courageously express our vulnerability in appropriate ways enables us to become more resilient to shame, develop clearer boundaries in our relationships and begin to experience what it’s like to live wholeheartedly.

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly


Further reading on vulnerability

Eight things we need in our relationships to feel okay

Transactional Analyst Richard Erskine talks about his research into the fundamental things we need to experience in our relationships in order to feel okay. This short video is aimed at counsellors and therapists but I think there’s also a great deal here for those who are struggling to figure out what may be missing from their lives and from their relationships.