Talking and Walking- in another’s shoes…

A wonderful on-going project in Toronto involves encouraging immigrant women to share their stories via a pair of shoes, reminiscent of “if these walls could talk…” only with the shoes actually becoming the focal point for the story telling.  What a lovely reminder for what really is the concept of empathy– the ability to not only give someone the opportunity to share stories, but for others to take a moment and attempt to understand the stories, and then, to grasp at the significance of the stories being told.   Like many a person, I too have a “junk drawer”, one of those places that collects what a person is not yet ready to throw out.  Objects in that drawer hold little significance for anyone else, but like the shoes on display, (see:   to read each of the short stories gathered over the three years of the project), may remind me of events, people, and life’s changes.  With the school year coming to a close, it seems a lovely idea to have students write about something that they might have found when cleaning out desks, lockers, or even helping in the lunch room or gym.  Over the years I have used a beautiful book by Sherri Fitch – If You Could Wear My Sneakers – main poem found here: , to discuss children’s rights and matched this set of rhyming tales to other courses, political science and social science, not only the writing lesson of a language arts class, and not only with younger students.  Sometimes a little bit of nonsense rhyme allows the older student to relax about what is really a very complex topic.  For how difficult it truly can be to move beyond labels, stereotypes, cliques (think school- really), professional titles (think work and socializing, please), and other inscribed role playing that individuals are expected to comply with.  To shake it up a bit, and if the students don’t object, objects could be placed in a giant container and then redistributed- two stories per object, one by the original owner and one made-up tale by whomever pulled it out of the “hat”. With one overriding rule prior to the sharing of the stories- no criticisms of the tales.  Respect being tantamount to encouraging empathy, beginning as young as possible sounds like a plan. 


to read the Toronto Star write up go here:







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