Wednesday, 7 February 2018


“Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.”
 – poem excerpt from “Judge Softly” by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895 

This week in Poets United the Midweek motif is “Shoes”. The origin of the English idiom “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” is given above. My poem below: 

Walk in His Shoes

It’s easy to dismiss the homeless man as lazy,
A good-for-nothing shirker of responsibility.
He is the foolish grasshopper who now freezes in Winter,
Because he sang all Summer long, isn’t he?
While we, industrious ants, were working hard…

He sits in a large carton, wrapped in an old, dirty blanket
While his breath condenses into tiny snowflakes.
He trembles and his eyes stare vacantly into the night,
While passers-by (few that they are) ignore him
Wrapped as they are in furs, woolen coats, warm boots.

He knows their thoughts and he’s given up hoping
For a few coins, that would buy him something hot to eat.
Way out beyond hope is the expectation of a kind word,
Someone who’s willing to stop and acknowledge him,
And his wretched existence as a fellow human.

The wind howls and the people rush to catch the train home,
Tonight is no night for laggards, there is no promenading.
The homeless man feels his teeth chattering as the sharp razor
Of the midwinter cold slices through him, freezing his heart
(Does he still have one? – He wonders).

A man and his son stop in front of him and the father drops some money
Into the empty tin the homeless one has forgotten beside his carton.
As the vagrant warmly smiles, the son frowns and admonishes his father:
“Our teacher said to not give money to bums; that sort of thing encourages them,
And they only spend it on booze, and the problem multiplies…”

The father looks at the son, surprised, and says calmly:
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes, Son...”
The son look askance at the homeless man, who shifts in his carton
Revealing his bare, dirty, bluish, freezing feet;
“Ha! Look he has no shoes; no doubt he spent the money on liquor.”

The father looks at his son’s warm boots and says:
“Take off your boots and give them to this barefoot man.
Then judge him when you’ve walked home on your naked feet,
Trudging that long mile through icy puddles, mud and dirty water…”


  1. Whew! Now that's a parable or a fable, well done in detail with a surprising end. It consolidates behaviors and ideas that I too have to examine. Thank you.

  2. "“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes, Son...” Good. We so often forget that and become judgmental very easily.

  3. Life lesson indeed... well narrated!

  4. Yes....well written . Too many make negative judgements and therefore but for the grace of God could go I might be a more helpful response..Life is so cruel When I see homeless people it depresses me enormously. It is a shameful to think it exists here when we are such a wealthy country.My poem was similar...great minds heh:)

  5. Wow, the moral tale comes to new life! I don't know about the son, but now all your readers are mentally walking that mile.

  6. I guess I musn't even judge those who have little empathy. What makes people look at suffering from a mean perspective? Is it learned, a self-protection from confronting another's pain? I'm asking myself these and other questions now. Thanks for your poem.

  7. A wise father. This poem reminds me of the winter day in the city, last year, when I handed five dollars to a homeless my hand stretched out, out from under a blanket came this beautiful big dog's head, sniffing at my hand so hopefully, obviously hungry and hoping for something to eat. It sort of broke my heart. And another time I will NEVER forget, handing twenty to a woman who must have been eighty, sitting on the cold city sidewalk, ringing her little bell, "anysparechange?" and how horrified I was that she should be sitting there, that the system had failed, and continues to fail, so many. Her disbelieving eyes as she saw the twenty. She tried to give me a watch, which I gently declined. I remember my son saying "the twenty doesnt solve the problem, does it?" No, it didnt. But that day she would have had something hot to eat and drink and I couldnt fix the system.

  8. A tale for building moral. Well done Nicholas

    Much love...

  9. A wise tale. Great twist at the end!

  10. You describe a scene people take for granted. This is beautifully written. Never take anything for granted.

  11. Once there, it is almost impossible to free oneself from the trap of homelessness. And dependent one becomes on the charity/compassion of others and the contents of bins. Unfortunately there is not much charity/compassion about these days, rather judgemental lines to free up a conscience, give an excuse do nothing.

    We should walk in others shoes and re-find our hearts.

    Anna :o]

  12. One can never know with any certainty how anyone ends up without - homeless, on the street - or how they survive - everyone has a story. And most didn't expect it. Important to remember - it could be anyone who ends up there. Like the ending - it may seem harsh, but sometimes a solid reality check offers more truth and understanding than words alone can teach.