Third annual “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” shares lifestories from all walks of life.
My father volunteered weekly for Room at the Inn. I would sometimes come along in to help feed those who came to share in a hot meal. I remember that, even as a child, I felt a great sense of sympathy for the people I met there; but also that I was in a unique position to get to talk to them, hear their stories and be a part of their lives for that brief moment in time.
One of those people has lingered in my mind all my life since. I don’t remember his real name. I knew him as “Uncle Booger.” Uncle Booger frequently came to stay the night and had a wild personality, referring to me as his “Boogerette.”
In preparation for writing this story, I asked my dad what he remembered about Uncle Booger. He couldn’t remember anything beyond what I’ve written here. I wondered: Do we not remember because so many years have passed? Or because we never bothered to ask, to listen?
As I pondered this, I started to think about other people, homeless and not, that I’ve come across in my life, and the details I could recall about the stories they’ve told and the feelings they’ve shared. Could I remember their stories, or at least the emotion behind them?
On Oct. 17-18 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m, The Salvation Army’s 614 Corps’ ReCreate Cafe will present “Walk In My Shoes, 3rd Edition: An Evening of Stories from Chattanooga’s Homeless and Non-homeless Citizens.” Storytellers will be reading the stories of others in the community in order to share in the various trials and experiences that, although potentially unfamiliar, can be universally understood.
This evening of storytelling, according to ReCreate Café Artistic Director Tenika Dye, will create “awareness that we are all more alike than we are different. We are human beings with struggles, tragedies, and victories. Empathy is the goal of this. It allows the audience to also consider, ‘If I went through what these people are talking about how would I respond?’ Then you have an audience that is ‘feeling with’ those on stage, rather than ‘feeling sorry for’.”
One such story is that of Lee Sanders, who will be participating in “Walk in My Shoes” for the second time. The first time, he had his story told. This time, he’ll have another of his stories told, as well as performing another’s story himself.
Sanders has experienced a vast spectrum of life events, from having a home, job and wife in Atlanta, to losing his wife suddenly, to descending into a deep devastation that resulted in his being stuck in a cycle of depression and homelessness.
And then, he says, “I had my story told in the ‘Walk In My Shoes Christmas Edition’, [and] working with Bruce Shaw, Tenika Dye and Lief Ramsey got me to thinking. I started to volunteer at the Salvation Army and at church. I started to make new friends who wanted to help me. I had some church friends who took me in, gave me a place to live; eventually I found a job. I also became the focus for the Arts Build documentary about ‘Walk in My Shoes.’ And now I am in the Holmberg Leadership Institute, and will graduate in November.”
Sanders’ story is inspiring, but, he says, he drew inspiration from hearing others’ stories to set himself on a new path. He hopes many others can be touched by these stories.
“I hope everyone comes out,” he says, “Anyone could benefit from these stories. They’re about people and their lives, not necessarily about where they live. We’re all still people, no matter our housing. Just hearing the other stories made me feel the need to stop thinking just about myself and to think about others.”
The hope is that all who attend this event will leave with a deeper understanding of their neighbors, no matter what their walk of life. Dye says, “We are not alone in this life. There are others like us. Our experiences might be vastly different, but at our core self we are humans trying our best to exist in a sometimes really messy world. But there is also great beauty and togetherness that can be found and celebrated, and I hope we are doing that with this work.”
“Walk A Mile In My Shoes,
ReCreate Café (at the Salvation Army)
800 McCallie Ave.
(423) 756-1023, ext. 1023