“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, of those who bring glad tidings of good things.” — Romans 10:18
One of the greatest pleasures I look forward to, no matter the time of year, is taking off my shoes and walking throughout the house, in the yard, in the garden or on the beach. The coolness of the dew-covered morning grass leaving droplets up to my ankles. The grittiness of the sand and sea salt erasing hard work off the bottom of my feet. The woodsy, wet squish of the garden soil between my painted toes. The cold and frozen snow making everything tingle with numbness — all envelop and challenge me to quiet my busy mind, to be grateful.
It’s difficult to explain to others how going barefoot is one of the things that truly bring me great joy and delight. I’ve been teased over the years about my dirty feet, the green stains after mowing the grass, how cold my toes are in the bed at night — but I’m not going to apologize! Taking the time for this simple act in the course of a busy day allows me to remember what makes me truly happy.
Maybe it’s because I feel so grounded, literally, so in tune with the earth and the beauty of God’s creation.
Maybe it’s because I can sense freedom once my feet are released from the binding socks and shoes needed to be worn throughout the day. Maybe it’s because even though my feet might ache some days more than others, I still have two feet to be thankful for in addition to so many other things in my life. Maybe it’s because being barefoot reminds me of my childhood — knowing that for 51 years I have happily played on this earth with God.
One thing I have discovered in these many barefoot journeys I have taken through the years is that happiness and joy are fruits of a life well lived, and can only continue to grow and develop within me if I consciously and intentionally choose to make them a part of my day, a part of my life.
As we continue to be pushed and rushed to keep up with everyone in this fast-paced 21st century — and work sometimes more hours in a day than is healthy for relationships with family, friends, God and self — it is easy to forget to take off our shoes and allow our physical, spiritual and emotional senses to truly feel what is happening around us and, most important, within us.
Unfortunately, it can become very easy in our search to fill a hole and find happiness, that we are less and less interested and available for noticing the beauty and scent of the flowers in bloom, the rose pink moon in the night sky, the smell of warm baking bread in the oven on a Saturday morning, the sweet music of my child singing their beloved dogs to sleep at night.
Instead of stopping, taking the time and gratefully embracing these simple pleasures and joys, we will often and inevitably notice what it is that we think is missing, what we think we might need, what we feel we are maybe lacking.
Happiness around us
Many of us are searching for happiness on the run, trying to make our lives more efficient and hoping to “get” our happiness and joy when we can fit it in around all the other distractions in our lives.
Unfortunately this becomes a search for a physical “something” that we do not have, a desire, which is very similar to happiness but rather becomes an instant fix for satisfying an impulse.
This can become a personal search for material wealth and power, a desire for an attachment to particular people and relationships even though they might not be healthy, seeking out certain risky experiences and opportunities, restricted and narrow minded ideas and opinions, and often selfish instead of selfless achievements and accomplishments.
The more hurried and rushed we are, the more we are willing to trade our true happiness for desire. Over time it becomes more and more difficult to know the difference between the two.
I am not saying that walking barefoot is the answer to finding or re-finding happiness and joy in your life, but maybe it will be! If you need someone to walk with you those first few steps until your feet readjust, come find me because my wish for you is: May you be happy!
Elizabeth Neville is director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, 11-8th Ave.South, St. Cloud.