Sometimes we are taught that other people and their ideas are dangerous and we should stay away from them. My Bubie believes that it is important to be strong in your values and your beliefs but also to be open to hearing, learning and trying to understand other people’s ideas. She says that there is a saying that, you cannot judge another person until you have walked in his shoes. This means that you need to experience what their life is like before you can judge them; although you can judge if their behavior is hurtful.
One way that we can make our world better is to try to understand each other and accept one another for who we are. This is especially if they are different from us, as long as they are good people who try to help others and make the world a better place in which to live. This next story is about two girls from two different neighborhoods who become friends, and walk in each other's shoes, in spite of the fact that their shoes seem to have different paths.
There were once a group of shoe stores in a quiet neighborhood where many people lived. The shoes liked living in the neighborhood and refused to go anyplace else. What does that mean, “they refused to go anyplace else”? You might say that these shoes had, “a mind of their own”, or at least, a view of the world of those who made them had.
Let me explain. When a person, young or old, bought a pair of shoes from one of these stores, they found that the shoes would only allow them to walk in their own neighborhood. As soon as the person tried to cross the street into another neighborhood, the shoes would “stop in their tracks” and not allow the person to go any farther.
Most people were actually satisfied with this situation. After all, the shoes were very comfortable, they seemed fashionable enough and they lasted for a whole year, which is a lot for growing children, until the next holiday when parents or grandparents would purchase a new pair. In some ways these shoes were quite unique in that they seemed to grow with the growing foot of the child. In addition, the people lived in a nice neighborhood and no one, well almost no one, was really interested in visiting other neighborhoods. They had everything they needed in the several blocks where they lived.
One day a few children were playing ball near the border between their neighborhood and the next one. As often happens when playing ball, the ball went over the head of the child trying to catch it and into the street. There it rolled down the hill and stopped on the corner of a small house in another neighborhood. One of the children, Basya Chaya, ran over to the end of the street, looked both ways for oncoming traffic (she had a friend who had been hit by a car in the street because she forgot to look both ways before she crossed, so Basya Chaya was very careful to stop and look before she crossed any street. Thank God her friend just had a broken wrist and was going to be fine) .
As soon as she began to cross the street her shoes would not move! She tried to pick up her feet, one at a time and then she tried to lift her legs up with her arms, one at a time. Nothing moved! Basya Chaya didn’t feel sick or tired, and her shoes were almost new. She looked to see if maybe she had stepped into something really sticky, like glue or gum, but she hadn't. Then, she tried stepping backwards and she was able to move again. When she returned to her friends she told them about the strange experience she had. She encouraged each of the children to try to retrieve the ball but no one wanted to go.
“That ball is not in our neighborhood. We are not allowed to go there. It is dangerous!” each of them said. The children turned around and went back to their own homes.
Basya Chaya thought to herself, “How could it be dangerous to cross the street to get our ball back?” She realized that she too had never crossed over to another neighborhood before. Why would she need to? All of the stores, the schools, her family and friends were in her own area. There had never been a need or desire to leave her neighborhood for any reason whatsoever. One thing that she hadn’t thought of or realized until now, that even if she did want to leave her neighborhood, she was unable to go!
It is a funny thing that happens to people. They can be happy where they are with what they have and never question that something could be different. However, when someone is told that they can’t do something or go somewhere or be what they want to be, suddenly whatever is preventing them from “moving” becomes a challenge. That challenge grows in your mind and before you know it, you begin to devote all of your time, intelligence and energy to overcoming the obstacle that is preventing you from doing what you had never thought of doing. In other words, this thought has grown into your “heart’s desire” and nothing can stop you!
This is what happened to Basya Chaya. She never thought of or wanted to explore the neighborhoods next to hers, but now that she saw that she couldn’t, she was going to figure out a way that she could. She thought that first she might ask her sisters and brothers if they knew about this strange occurrence in which your shoes stopped cold in their tracks as you were about to cross into another neighborhood. “Maybe”, she thought, “they could explain this strange situation to me.” After that she would devise a plan, with or without help, to explore the surrounding neighborhoods and compare the lives of the people who lived there to hers.
When Basya Chaya returned home that afternoon she asked her older brother and sister if they too had the experience where their shoes would not move past their own neighborhood. Her brother answered, “Oh yes, Basya Chaya. It is well-known. The boys in our school know that all of the shoes we buy stay here when we are wearing them. Of course we are not allowed to run around without shoes on our feet!”
Basya Chaya’s older sister told her that she and her friends had never tried to go to another neighborhood. “Why would we want to go where we don’t know people and where we don’t have any friends?” she asked.
“But aren’t you curious?” Basya Chaya asked. “Don’t you want to see what it is like in another neighborhood next to us?”
Basya Chaya’s siblings said that they were sometimes curious and her brother had heard about some of the boys in his school discovering a way to leave their neighborhood and exploring the surrounding places; but he had never tried it himself.
“Well”, said Basya Chaya, “I think that I want to see what it is like living in the neighborhood next to ours. I don’t want to have shoes that don’t allow me to cross the street and talk to other people, see other places and discover new things!”
Once Basya Chaya had decided to cross over to a new neighborhood, she then had to devise a way to get there. It is not such an easy task to go to a place that your shoes won’t let you go to, especially when one of your choices is not to take those shoes off! In Basya Chaya’s neighborhood walking around without shoes was forbidden. It was immodest and it was inappropriate!
Basya Chaya’s older brother and sister decided to go on this adventure with her. They felt responsible for her and knew that if there was going to be trouble, they should be there to help her get out of it. So they decided after lunch one day to go to the park, in their neighborhood of course, and devise a plan.
“Maybe we could go at night and take off our shoes. Then, no one would see us without shoes on our feet”, suggested Basya Chaya.
“Going at night could be dangerous,” said her brother. “We need to go during the day when we can see our way clearly, there and back.”
“Maybe we can make our own shoes,” suggested her sister. “That way we would not be stopped. I can find some material, sew it to look like shoes and then we could just cross over.”
The children spoke all afternoon until their Mother called them in for dinner. They did not agree on a specific plan and decided to think about it overnight and discuss it again the next day.
That night Basya Chaya had a dream. In her dream a young girl her age was playing ball in the neighborhood across the street. Suddenly, the ball got away from her and started rolling down the street towards where Basya Chaya was standing. The young girl asked Basya Chaya to bring her ball back to her and Basya Chaya ran to retrieve the ball and bring it to the girl. However, when Basya Chaya tried to cross the street, her shoes would not let her move.
“I’m so sorry,” said Basya Chaya. I’m not allowed to go into your neighborhood. Maybe you can come over here to get your ball back.”
The little girl walked to the end of the corner, looked both ways to make sure no cars were coming and crossed the street to where Basya Chaya was standing to get her ball back. “Why can’t you come over to my neighborhood?” asked the young girl, whose name was Shifra.
“My shoes won’t let me leave my neighborhood”, Basya Chaya explained to her. “Really?” Shifra asked in a way that sounded like she didn’t believe Basya Chaya. “I have an idea”, said Shifra. Why don’t we switch shoes? I will let you wear my shoes and I will wear yours. Let’s see what happens.”
“Ok”, agreed Basya Chaya. “Let’s try it.” So the girls exchanged shoes, each putting on the shoes of the other girl. Basya Chaya walked to the end of the street, looked both ways and began to cross over to Shifra’s neighborhood. When she arrived on the other side she looked all around her and noticed that some things were similar to her own neighborhood, but some things were also very different!
Then, Shifra began to cross the street to get back to her neighborhood while wearing Basya Chaya’s shoes and guess what happened? The shoes would not allow her to cross the street! “What kind of shoes are these? She yelled out. Shifra was not about to be stuck on the other side of the street so she promptly took off the shoes and crossed over to where Basya Chaya was standing.
“Do you want to come to play at my house?” Shifra asked Basya Chaya. “I live right over here and it would be fun to make a new friend, I’m Shifra.” “I’m Basya Chaya, and I would love to come and play at your house,” answered Basya Chaya. Suddenly, Basya Chaya awoke from her dream.
She ran over to her brother’s bed and then her sister’s bed and told them what she had dreamed. “That is what we must do”, she said excitedly. We must find someone in the other neighborhood who is willing to come to us and give us their shoes! Then we will be able to cross over and see how other people live!”
“Great idea”, said her brother, “but how do you propose that we do that? We just stand on the corner waiting for a kid to show up and try to convince him to come to our street? Most people don’t even want to visit our neighborhood.”
Basya Chaya’s sister had an idea. “Come with me and bring the ball,” she said. Her siblings followed her and out the door they went. “Let’s play ball here and when we see some kids in the neighborhood across the street, we will invite them to come play with us. Let’s bring some snacks that we can share with them.”
That is exactly what Basya Chaya and her siblings did that day. They played ball until they saw some children on the other side of the street come out to play in front of their homes. Basya Chaya thought that she actually recognized one of the little girls. “Shifra” she yelled out. The girl turned around, stared across the street and answered, “Yes, I’m Shifra. How do you know my name?”
“I had a dream last night that I met you”, answered Basya Chaya. Now most grown people would not believe in the tremendous power of dreams, but children know that sometimes dreams can introduce you to people and places that are real, even though you have not been there or met them yet. Dreams can also lead you to your future and help you to understand your past, if you are open to listening to them, as Basya Chaya was.
So, Shifra and her two friends, another girl and boy, walked across the street to meet Basya Chaya and her two siblings. Shifra and her friends never had any reason to go to the neighborhood across the street and were happy to explore it with their new friends. Then they invited Basya Chaya and her older brother and sister to come over to their homes. When Basya Chaya said they couldn’t cross the street, Shifra thought that she meant that her parents did not allow her to cross the street by herself, but then when she realized they really couldn’t cross the street, she offered, just like in Basya Chaya’s dream, to exchange shoes with Basya Chaya.
Basya Chaya and her siblings had such a wonderful day exploring Shifra’s neighborhood. They had never seen so many houses with cars and animals and furniture and different color painted walls. There were pictures on all of the walls, pianos in the homes, and music was coming out of some device they had never seen before. It seemed magical and wonderful. There were bicycles for every child, games, and children’s books on all of the shelves in the children’s rooms. The girls and many different colored dresses and shirts and the boys had long pants, short pants and shoes for playing sports like soccer and basketball. Basya Chaya decided that she would become good friends with Shifra and come to visit her often.
Shifra lived a very different life from Basya Chaya. She went to a school where they studied about plants and animals. She volunteered at the zoo to help feed and care for the animals and she also was a vegetarian, which meant that she did not eat any meat. Shifra didn’t have any brothers and sisters. She was an only child, but she had lots of pets in the house, cats, dogs, birds, mice and even a snake!
Shifra also had a beautiful garden where she grew fruit, vegetables and spices, too. Shifra loved to read books and she loved to sing and dance. She was in a choir at school and she took a dance course two days a week. She would teach Basya Chaya the dances she learned in her course and they would put music on and dance around her house together.
Basya Chaya and Shifra became life-long friends. When they were older they traveled together, came to each other’s weddings and even lived close to each other so that their children would grow up being friends. You could say that each of them helped the other to open her eyes to different customs and ideas about how to live a happy life. They learned many things from one another. The most important of all was to respect each other for their ideas and for their choices. This is the sign of a very good friend; she accepts you for who you are and that is the reason why Basya Chaya and Shifra continued to stay close all of their lives.