Who can forget Rain Man? Dustin Hoffman earned an Oscar for the best actor in his role as Raymond Babbitt in the movie. The film also won the best picture of the year in 1988, so for those of you who were too young at that time, thank you Netflix. You should watch it. It is still an incredible film, and it did a lot to raise awareness about what would later be called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

During a scene, Raymond is ranting to his brother Charlie played by Tom Cruise, about his underwear. Being extremely habitual and routine driven, Raymond was not wearing his typical underwear, and he let his brother know it…about 50 times! For most of us who had not been exposed to ASD, it was an exposure to something that we hadn’t previously understood. So, what about the title, “Those Are Not My Shoes”?

Shoes, underwear, ASD??… Connect the dots for me, Paul!

In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, habit 5 is ‘Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood’. This is great advice and behavior for us to emulate at any time, but especially now where the word polarization seems to be such an accurate descriptor during our current times.

There is a phrase that was thought to be a Native American proverb, but in fact, it is the title of a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. The title, “A Mile in Another Man’s Moccasins” talks about judging softly and empathizing with other people’s situations and points of view. Something that would go a long way to help you improve your relationships and better our world today.

So, if you recognize that indeed, those are not my shoes, try to imagine walking a mile in them. Imagine the struggle that the other person might be experiencing and work hard to try to empathize instead of jumping right into judging. Keep in mind, this takes work! Most of us are not built this way so it definitely takes determination to think this way.

Like Spike Lee said in one of the early Air Jordan commercials, “Money, it’s gotta be the shoes!” The key to better understanding, relationships, and a better world for all of us are in the shoes, money! I’ll leave you with a portion of Mary T. Lathrap’s poem.

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,

Or stumbles along the road.

Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,

Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt

Though hidden away from view.

The burden he bears placed on your back

May cause you to stumble and fall, too.”

~ Mary T. Lathrap