Here Are My Shoes

I did not know to send my shoes to Paris but here they are, virtually. Even the Pope sent a pair of plain black dress shoes; UN Secretary General Ban Ky Moon sent a jogging 120915

Type, condition, or owner is not the criteria. Solidarity of the human spirit is.

20,000 pairs of shoes arrived in the Place de la République in support of the activists who were not able to march at the UN climate summit. French authorities banned large outdoor marches in light of the recent terrorist attacks.

Activists turned to the compassionate response for terrorism is never a match for compassion, a truly revolutionary act. Compassion connects. The world sent shoes and then, hundreds of thousands in cities across the globe marched for those who could not.

In solidarity, there is awareness, a sliver of light where there once was darkness. That is change.

Black Bears of Florida, here are my shoes.

Black out for the bearsActivism did not stop the black bear hunt. It was a mismanaged slaughter as predicted. The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) sold over 3,700 hunting permits for the “harvesting” of 320 bears. In less than 48 hours, 298 bears were dead. As of this writing, the final bear death total is 304.

There had been no black bear hunting in Florida for 21 years. The population was considered endangered but in recovery. No one knows the total number of black bears in Florida. Most agree it is around 3,000, including the FWC who sold more hunting permits than the estimated number of bears.

The continued presence of activists did shut down the hunt five days early. They gathered at kill reporting checkpoints to monitor the hunt as well as to photograph and record bear data. And yes, they posted the data on social media. It is still getting attention.

Black bears found a way back from being an endangered species only to discover they are refugees in their own land.

In Tallahassee, there was a Requiem for Bear ceremony. When there is reverence for life, there is a spark, a way to begin anew. Increasingly, pairs of occupied shoes are coming to Florida courthouses and county commission meetings for the rights of black bears.

Seminole County is enacting an ordinance outlining specific requirements for humans to do their part in living with bears. Sponsored state legislation for 2016 will help municipalities cover the costs.

Virtual connections as well as person-to-person contact allow the issue the light of day. Solutions appear and disappear. Not all are feasible. Increased awareness results in increased opportunities for connection. That does work. It is how change occurs.

Syrian refugees, here are my shoes. Winter Solstice Skies 1214

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have died in Syria, and millions are fleeing. Numbers are fluid but an inter-agency group reports over 4.2 million “are persons of concern.”

I am reminded of a Flannery O’Connor short story, “The Displaced Person.” The title reflects a well-known and often-used term for WWII refugees. Themes of this story—bigotry, racism, xenophobia—are evident in every day events across the globe. We connect to them virtually.

Of late, America has given fear center stage. All of it is spew, the stuff of authoritarian regimes, so similar to what the refugees are fleeing. They must wonder what to do, knowing death is certain if they stay and life is uncertain if they go.

When it comes to refugees or any “displaced persons,” we wrap ourselves in labels—hold up our signs–so there is no doubt as to our identity, provided we are able to spell it correctly.

Hiding behind a label keeps us from making the compassionate response. We forget labels reveal not only who we are but who we are not. Our fear and paranoia crackle and pop like the short-lived flames they are, ever in need of an outside wind.

The compassionate response arises from the stillness within. It thrives on our connection to one another. That we are human is label enough. The compassionate response is the thoughtful tear on an ember of fear. One is all it takes before there are two. Solidarity of the human spirit is that basic.

Humanity, here are my shoes.

20 thoughts on “Here Are My Shoes

  1. Karen, this is such a wonderful post! You are quite right. Compassion – solidarity together around the globe in the aims of care – is a simple recipe to cure so much that is wrong with the world. Why can humanity never do it? When I look at the madness around the planet today, I sometimes despair. What ever became of reason, tolerance, compassion? I did hazard a suggestion as to why humanity keeps falling into the abyss, over on my blog, today. But I believe it is within all of us to be compassionate, if we allow ourselves. And I think if we did that, so much of what exercises us and drives the intolerance would melt away. All humanity – all of us – are on this tiny planet together. Your thoughts give hope! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely, lovely post on your blog, Matthew (“Planet of the Apes”? We’re Living It, December 13, 2015). I had not considered our “ape behavior”–thank you for that–your thoughtful essay gives me hope. Transcending our “ape-ness” seems more than possible. You and I know that compassion lives within each one of us. And I believe compassion is a revolutionary act, perhaps our most powerful human tool. Thanks so much, Matthew, for giving us yet another brilliant perspective.
      P.S. I went ahead and linked to your post. 🙂 I apologize for being a bit late with my response.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Karen. Thanks for your thoughts – yes, compassion is definitely one of the key ways we can transcend our ‘ape’ framework. I’m hoping to explore this idea-set a little more in 2016, it’s something well accepted in the anthropological community but which has yet to gain much traction outside it – the notion of our self-exceptionalism still intrudes even as the evidence builds that we are not (though, as I argue, we could be if we tried). I’ve been meaning to respond to your holiday season post for a few days. Life swirls with a kaleidoscope of priorities at this time of year. All the very best for the festive season!


        1. Yes, thank you for mentioning self-exceptionalism. Indeed, it does intrude; at times, it is the main obstacle. Like you, I believe that exceptionalism need not be the elephant in the room (could not resist 😉 ). In fact, it could be to what we aspire but first, we are going to have to open ourselves to the world as it is. In other words, work with the reality we have.

          As you know, I am behind in responding to blog comments as well as leaving comments on blogs I read regularly, such as yours. Perhaps in 2016, I’ll find a bit of balance. I, too, wish you and yours a most joyous holiday season.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful post Karen. It is so hard to keep walking this path, but I have come to the conclusion that the only walk we can control is our own and so we must walk toward what we believe even if our destination seems unattainable.

    We must strive to show the compassion we hope to find in others–and when we falter, we will rest and then try again.


    1. It is true that on some days we rest so we may once again try. For me, the Zen koan of “the obstacle is the path” is what comes to mind on those days when nothing seems to work. Then, I know it is time to rest. If nothing else, at least my perspective will change. Thanks, Adrian.


  3. Thank you for bringing these images of shoes and positive action today. We cannot be undecided and in the middle today. You remind me that even a small step is still a step for an end to violence, protection for our earth, its climate and its denizens, and away from political rhetoric that spews fear.


    1. I agree, Beth, that not one of us can afford to sit in the middle, which is not to say that we cannot find a balanced approach. The compassionate response, I think, is a balanced one, and let us hope that we will find a compassionate response for the Syrian refugees. Thank you, Beth.


    1. Ah, August. So many times, your Girl Boner® radio broadcasts and blog posts have brought hope to my heart. These are such tumultuous times but I remain convinced that each one of us brings a bit of light. Thank you, August, for all you are doing.

      Liked by 1 person

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