Dear Friends of Mayer Lutheran High School,
Spring greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Almost a year ago, the murder of George Floyd set off a significant series of protests regarding the treatment of black Americans at the hands of the police and other authorities. Cries for social justice continue to ring loud and true. Outrage has been expressed in a thousand ways throughout our great land and, indeed, the world. Through it all, I have contemplated what to share with you. I pray what follows is considered with graciousness and compassion.
Despite odd notions floating around in the media and on university campuses, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to inspire me as he elegantly proclaimed, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I pray that Dr. King’s words are as meaningful for you as they are for me.
So, what shall I say? Racism is bad? Some in America have had advantages not afforded to others? Our history has significant incongruities for the land of the free and the home of the brave? God loves us all, no matter our skin color and so should we? These are, in my mind, so obvious that they barely need to be uttered. The lesson I’d rather share comes from a strange and hilarious place—Cheers—a place where everybody knows your name.
In the final scene of the final episode of the Emmy-winning sitcom, the gang is sharing a talk about the meaning of life. Let’s drop in for a moment:
Sam: I keep askin’ myself: what is the point to life? Woody: Whew. That’s a tough question. Cliff: Ehh. Well, I got the answer. Frasier: Somehow I knew you would. Cliff: Comfortable shoes. Frasier: Shoes? Cliff: Yeah. If you’re not wearin’ comfortable shoes, life is just chaos. I mean the greatest accomplishments in history have been made by men wearin’ accommodating shoes. Uh, Frasier, tell me, who do you think is the greatest thinker in all mankind? Frasier: I don’t know, uh… Aristotle. Cliff: There you go: sandals. Perhaps the most comfortable shoe there is. You hardly even know you have them on. I mean Confucius: thongs. Einstein: loose loafers.
Maybe Cliff wasn’t too far off. Comfortable shoes may be the answer.
The key to love, respect, and harmony is to not look at each other in the eye. Rather, it may be in looking down at their shoes. If police officers are the gun-slinging, thoughtless monsters portrayed by so many in social media and elsewhere, perhaps you should wear their shoes sometime and try your best to imagine what their lives are like. Better yet, ask one some time. You’ll not regret it.
Speaking of critics, they wear shoes too! When protests go awry, I often wonder where their shoes have taken them in life. When looters run loose, they too have shoes on their feet. How have their lives been shaped? What may be alien to
you and your experience may be reality to them. What happened in their life as they grew up? Did they have a supportive family, church, or school? Did their neighbors and friends offer encouragement? If you have a chance to chat with them, you’d no doubt discover their shoes took them to quite different places than yours.
We are born in the image of God, even with all of our imperfections. This fact is true for police officers and looters, professors and high school dropouts, Democrats and Republicans, city dwellers and country folk. When those first booties swaddled an infant’s feet, a whole series of events would unfold that would shape their lives and bring them to the place they find themselves now. It would be wise for us to remember this fact. And I’d encourage you to consider one other factor as we try to make sense of these troubled times.
Disease and famine, war and hatred, racism and injustice have been with us since the fall into sin. How does God deal with these maladies? Through comfortable shoes. For us, Jesus came to live as a man in the cesspool of our lives while still deity. His sandals took him to the visit a hated Samaritan. He taught and healed and loved the entirely unlovable. His sandals willingly led Him to suffer for us in a kangaroo court, be crucified by the most skillful executioners of all time, and to be buried in a borrowed tomb. To walk in His shoes truly requires a life of sacrifice. And, by His victory over death, we also walk with joy and hope and courage and purpose. Praise God!
As the thirty-five graduates from Mayer Lutheran and Genesis Virtual Academy wear their comfortable shoes across the stage May 30, our prayer for them, and you, is that we always consider what happens in the lives of others, seek to know what it is like to walk in their shoes, and no matter what, love them mightily. When they do so, they will have followed in the same footsteps of Jesus—comfortable sandals and all!
Living to Know Jesus and Others,
Joel P. Landskroener