Arab Shoes

I was originally going to stay with posts of stories and myths about the Christmas season for the next several days, but the shoe throwing incident engenders these thoughts.

You know the childhood rhyme, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me”.

I would offer a modern day alternative: “sticks and shoes can break the rules, but names can never hurt me”.

I think President George W. Bush missed a valuable opportunity in Baghdad when a disgruntled Iraqi television journalist threw his shoes at the President and yelled insults. Throwing shoes at another person is one of the more profound insults you can do to another in the Arab world.

Unless he is permanently mired into the world of privileged and presidential illusion, Mr. Bush has got to understand that he is not very popular in many parts of this world; especially the Arab world.

The shoe throwing incident would have been a perfect time for Mr. Bush to say, “I am not insulted by the shoe throwing, just as you would not be insulted if gestures considered an insult in the West were directed at you. It is not part of our culture. What it shows is our cultural differences, our societal misunderstandings and especially the need for each of us to be tolerant, considerate and loving as both the Koran and the Bible instruct.”

If I were the President I would have immediately and publicly forgiven the man to defuse the situation and offered a sit-down interview with him to discuss perceived differences and old pain and I would have said to the world there is no insult to the Office of the Presidency that history cannot counter with good works, generosity and a continued treasured sacrifice for the potential betterment of humankind.

A Wonderful Life

Christmas energy is a warm uplifting inner glow that affirms the value of good will and how sacred life is.

It’s no wonder that this time of year, the Jimmy Stewart film It’s a Wonderful Life, continues to capture our hearts with the simple truth that every life counts.

In the tale, Clarence, an angel trying to earn his wings, shows George Bailey that it is the living of life that is wonderful, not that every moment is pure and without pain or that every dream comes true. It is a poignant story of how we are all connected to the universal sufferings and celebrations of life.

The truth of life and the spirit of Christmas are one in the same. You feel it in the little things we give to each other: a smile, a hug, a handshake, a kind remark, and even in the gifts we give to strangers. These are tough times for a lot of newer people so remember the food bank, toys for tots, the Salvation Army and Gifts For Grown-ups.

The Christmas spirit and a wonderful life happen when we choose to give what we seek.

Christmas Customs

Some thoughts today and for the next several days on the customs and stories of Christmas.

In England, it is still common to hear someone say that the cock crows for Christmas. Legend has it that the roosters crowing would frighten away the bad spirits from the holy season.

Other superstitions are wonderful in their imagery. One is that bees can sing at Christmas and sheep walk in procession to commemorate the visit of the angel to the shepherds.

In Canada, there is the story of an Indian creeping through the woods on Christmas, watching to see the deer kneel and look up to the Great Spirit.

At one time in the German Alps it was believed that cattle had the gift of language on Christmas, but it was a sin to eavesdrop.

In Poland the story is told that on Christmas the heavens are opened and the scene of Jacob’s ladder is re-enacted, but only the saints could see it.

In Scandinavian countries. Goodwill is the order of the season. Old quarrels are balanced by forgiveness and feuds are forgotten. In each household family members place their shoes in a row to symbolize that during the year the family will live together in peace and harmony.

Let us visualize all the shoes of the world in a row this year.


We have an ice storm going on at the moment. As I look outside in the twinkling bright of one streetlight, the trees and bushes, the brush and wires are coated with about an inch of ice. The prediction is for more over night.

I live in small rural community. My road is what you would call a “dead end”. I’ve always disliked that term and would prefer “no outlet”, but preferences and rules always have a conflict with rules winning out. Anyway, my “dead end” is a microcosm of age and cultures.

At the start of my road is a boarding house for transient folks who come and go as needed. Some of my neighbors with little kids don’t like it and I understand their concern, but community is just that: a community of people living in the same vicinity each trying to survive as best they can.

We are not a tribe where mutual trust is the rule. We are a collection of unrelated people who happen to be living in proximity at the same time for the same purpose. Life!

If you travel the world you would witness much more of this type of living than you do in the United States. In Malaysia I saw mansions side by side to shacks. It is what it is.

As you move up my road, the ten or so houses become more individualized, single family and distinct. There are one-story homes with a couple of bedrooms and more outside play space than you’d find exponentially inside. The maximum abode would be two stories and that would also include a utilized or finished basement and a small attic storage space.

What is delightfully more important is the age of the residents. The oldest family couple on the street are in their nineties and the youngest family unit is just out of their twenties with all generations in between including toddlers, teenagers and grade-school children.

What is seemingly unique to this neighborhood, based upon my experience of living in many other places is that, apart from the transient rooming house, we each know the other’s name and we each look out for the other.

We have illness and infirmity close by. We have the young with babies and the elderly with problems. We have all spectrums of income and all political ideals. We rarely socialize, but we talk with each other and our commonalty is concern for the other. I’m not sure you can find that in a lot of places, but it flourishes here.

The icy mix continues outside and I am thankful for this place.