VOL. 133 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 13, 2018
CONSIDERING SHOES: We’re in Florence – the one in Italy – and I’m on my own. The rest of the family has gone one way, and I’ve gone another – a fairly normal occurrence on trips at the time of day when I’m looking for an interesting place to have a drink and Nora is looking for one more interesting museum/garden/church to wander through.
I pass a small shop with shoes in the window. Florence is known for leather goods and these shoes were good examples. The sign on the door says open until 5 and it was just 4 or so, but the door was locked. In Italy, posted opening and closing times are just goals seldom achieved.
There was a man inside obviously closing up when he saw me peering in. With an arms-wide, grand gesture – Italians are good at these – and a wide smile, he opened the door and ushered me in.
Since I didn’t speak Italian and he didn’t speak English, I led him to the window and pointed to the shoes I liked, and he led me to a chair to measure my foot. He then scurried into the back room to find my size. He came back out empty-handed wearing an expression that suggested somebody in the family had died.
He didn’t have my size.
He raised his finger to indicate I should wait and went back into the back room. He emerged with a tray holding a bottle of wine, some cheese, crusty bread, and three glasses, just as someone else came in – the shopkeeper next door. I was invited to take part in what was probably a daily ritual.
The three of us shared the contents of that tray and communicated quite well in the common language of a glass of wine, a little bread and cheese, and good company.
Seems I found that interesting place to have a drink.
For any number of reasons, I’m often reminded of that late afternoon in Florence.
For one, the experience confirms my belief that the best communication is one-on-one – working things out – writing or speaking as if you were writing or speaking to one person no matter how large the audience.
For another, just the humanity of it, the kindness in his gesture, the openness in his invitation, the bridging across countries, continents and oceans in a small shoe shop, in a glass of wine.
When policies are suggested, laws proposed, before they’re adopted or passed, the huge number of people affected is just too large to have meaning, the scope too wide to truly appreciate the effect – those making policy, those voting should just think of just one person most affected.
Just one of us lost and isolated because of it. Just one of us suffering without insurance because of it. Just one of us mentally unstable and homeless because of it.
Just one small helpless child separated from parents by a thousand miles in a strange land.
I’m a Memphian, and we should walk in those shoes.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.