A classic greeting card offers the sentiment, usually with some big shoe on the cover and a tiny kitten sitting in the middle of it, that “no one else can fill your shoes.” It’s a great sentiment really because it offers a truth that there is no one quite like you. Turning that phrase a bit we also might be reminded of the one that says “You have big shoes to fill.” That one sets a different tone, now you’re the person in line behind someone great, stepping into the role, hoping you can do the job.
We also have the saying “if the shoe fits” meaning perhaps that we need to own an idea or an action because someone has reminded us of a truth we might not have wanted to recall. Perhaps we borrowed that one from Cinderella, who apparently was the only female ever to wear tiny glass slippers. Clearly, no one else could fill her shoes. Personally, I love Ellen Jackson and Kevin O’malley’s version of that story called Cinder Edna. Cinder Edna wouldn’t let life’s troubles ever weigh her down. She didn’t sit in the ashes feeling sorry for herself just waiting for her prince to come along. She actually preferred loafers. She was out there planting seeds of joy and giving back to the neighborhood. She didn’t have time to even worry about what wasn’t happening because she was so busy making things happen all by herself. When she was introduced to the Prince’s brother, she hit if off with him because he was a go-getter, a goofy dancer, and otherwise authentic person just like herself. She left the Prince, who was really quite a yawner, to Cinderella.
As long as we’re remembering fanciful shoes, we might think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as well. Getting blown out of Kansas, Dorothy has to retrace steps a hundred different ways, following the yellow brick road, fighting off scary creatures and making friends with unlikely characters along the way. Fearless in her pursuit to find her way home again, she sets out to get wisdom in the form of a self-made wizard, only to discover she had the truth within herself the whole time. In fact, she was wearing the dazzling red shoes that would get her home again whenever she chose.
Sometimes, I think we’re like all these examples. We get lost. We try to fill someone else’s shoes but it doesn’t really work. We lose our way and hope someone will find us, help us before we get caught in some other world where we don’t belong. We try on shoes that don’t really fit, made of glass when all the time our loafers were actually the ones with the magic. All the time, we had the power to change things because the gifts to do so had been put within us by a master designer.
These stories remind me of yet another one, the story of John the Baptist who was out in the desert making a path for Jesus. John was a realist though, he had a sense of direction like few before him or since. He said, “He Who is coming after me is mightier than I. Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry.” John had a sense that those sandals were going to be big ones to fill and he was right.
Wherever we walk today, we have big shoes to fill. Whether we’re stepping out in fancy glass slippers, hoping to be discovered, or changing the world in our loafers, one act of kindness after another, we’re in the big shoe dance. Like Dorothy, we can tap our shoes together and find our way again any time because we’re always connected to the Source, the One who gives us happy feet.
You may have big shoes to fill, but you can do it in your own style! Just walk the walk!