With 10 minutes to spare before my next flight, I grab a seat in a hallway of the airport. Talking to people makes me alert and on and constantly noticing. So I sip my tea and steal this moment to disconnect. But I can’t tune out the commotion around me. People and carts and kids with mini suitcases and service dogs in embroidered vests.
I watch a group of men enter the hallway, their rich brown arms deeply contrasting the hues of their blue jeans. They are all of similar stature with deep eyes and dark short hair. Some look twenty, others look forty, but they are all wearing these smiles — timid yet eager. There is an energy about them. This experience is new.
“CART ON YOUR RIGHT,” an airport cart driver yells from behind.
“Cuidado!” the leader of the pack says as he sprints ahead to the side.
The rest scatter and laugh. I wonder where they are going. Are they arriving to work here, or simply passing through? What really gets me are their shoes.
They are all different. Sneakers and brown work shoes and sensible walking shoes and boots and a pair of bright red gym shoes…all neatly framed under the blues of their jeans.
I think about how each of them chose their shoes. Trying them on in the store, giving them a test walk, gazing into those tiny floor mirrors, talking it over with their wives, kids, mothers, brothers — or whatever circle surrounds them in life and the shoe aisle. I imagine them considering the price and finally rationalizing with a confident smile that these shoes will be their shoes.
And this hits me right in the heart. Because these men are strangers and so different, except they are not. They are humans with hearts and families. And we are all in this together. Searching for shoes, love, connection, and meaning.
We are working jobs to make money. We are stepping on planes to go to new places. We are shopping for shoes because we are all walking softly each day on the same planet we call home.
It is in this moment that I wish I had something more to give. I have nothing with me except a stack of surveys and mini pencils. So I smile so big it hurts because these people are lovely and kind and welcome here. I cannot give anything except kindness.
But maybe kindness is all there is. Maybe it’s the only gift we truly have to give.
And this kills me. Because it was never about the shoes. It’s always been about the heart.