The Kenwood Press
Publishers' Corner: 05/01/2015

If the shoe fitsÖ

Ann Q. Peters

Comedian Steve Martin said, ďBefore you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, youíll be a mile away and have his shoes.Ē

We felt this way driving through the Los Angeles area two weeks ago, coming home from a vacation in Palm Springs. The air was smoggy and the traffic was horrendous. Why would anyone want to live down there? There are so many inexplicable things going on in the world. Why did people in Baltimore riot and burn their own neighborhoods? Why are mountaineers compelled to put their lives in danger summiting the worldís highest peaks? Why do people go abalone diving when every year people die trying to pry a mollusk off a rock while holding their breath under water? Itís human nature to not understand what motivates others. We filter everything through our own lense. That being said, though, we really should try to see things from other points of view. Put on those proverbial shoes and walk around a little bit.

But people resist, because itís a very uncomfortable exercise. The shoes donít fit. They give us blisters. We get tired doing all that walking. Itís so much easier to say, ďWell thatís just crazy.Ē

My cousin lives in Baltimore, and I visited her there two years ago. Baltimore is a majority minority city, with many recent immigrants from Africa. As I rode around on the Charm City Circulator, the free bus line that goes around the inner harbor and downtown, I felt like I was in a foreign country. The accents, the skin color, the heat and humidity, the old buildings, all added up to an exotic and exciting experience. Baltimore is quirky. Anyone familiar with John Waters knows that. Itís a great city. But as my cousin explained to me, a large percentage of the young black men there have been in jail or prison, often for non-violent offenses like drug use, and when they get out they canít find work. It seems like a huge waste of human capital. If I were in those shoes long enough, I, too, might explode with rage one day. Itís not something to condone, but itís something to try to understand.

I love life here in Kenwood. I am perfectly content to live in this tiny, idyllic place. But then again, Iím a 55-year-old woman. My idea of risk is riding my bike up the highway to Oakmont. And it is a little bit risky, despite the wide shoulder and the fact that I only do it during non-commute hours. There are probably people who think thatís crazy. What seems like a reasonable risk to a mountain climber may appear unreasonable to an abalone diver, and what seems reasonable to an abalone diver definitely appears unreasonable to me. And what seems like a reasonable risk to me probably appears unreasonable to certain other family members who shall remain nameless. Itís all a matter of degree. The important thing is to put on those shoes and start walking!

But I still donít understand why people live in L.A. Ė Ann