There's a pair of shoes in my closet I never wear. I bought them, thinking I would, and there they have sat ever since. Somehow, when I've tried to wear them I feel they don't look right--they don't "feel" like my shoes.

Today, I was looking for something else entirely and I glanced at them. They're bright red so they're hard to miss. It occurred to me that maybe I should try once more. So, I sat down and put them on, got up and walked around. Nope. Still feel strange. But for some reason I decided to keep them on for a bit. For one, I'm kinda nutty like that. However, I thought 'hey, this is kind of a life metaphor.' Somehow, it reminded me of how easy it is to forget how different it can feel to walk in shoes "not your own."

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We all come from very different backgrounds and grow to have wildly varied perspectives about how to live life. We also come from different socio-economic background and from homes where parents made very different choices. All of these factors come together to make us who we have become. Of course, we can all choose differently and make the best choices we can if we'd like. That doesn't mean our lives haven't been significantly affected, though. Why am I saying this?

I've found that when I reflect on these things, it helps me to feel much more compassion for people who have very different points of view than I. It also reminds me that those those whom are less fortunate didn't always get there because of their own bad decisions. None of us can know all of the details of the lives of every human we encounter.

You know what we can do, though? We can be kind. We can feel compassion in a non-condescending way. We can decide not to alienate others or believe ourselves to be superior because of the blessings in our lives. Even when we encounter people who've made wrong choices along the way--are they not worthy of forgiveness or compassion? Does the neighbor with different political or religious views than you not deserve human dignity and kindness? Are we not all human at the end of the day?

Next time we're tempted to write off, demonize, or alienate others, just imagine for one moment that you're walking in their shoes. You don't have to agree with them. Just seek to understand. And always, whenever possible, be kind.

READ MORE: Here are 10 ways to help others who are struggling right now


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