klip-Thump – klip-Thump – klip-Thump.
My shoes mocked me. I never thought a set of footwear could mock. Or embarrass. Or harass. But in the world of a self-conscious adolescent they could. And did – with an impish tinge of spite.
The worst places by far were school hallways.
The polio virus had sent me to the hospital after I started Fourth Grade. Released months later I resumed my schoolboy life.
I’ll never forget my first day back to school. How awkward it felt, keenly aware no one but me was bumbling down the hallway with a pair of accessories called crutches. When time came to retire the crutches I was overjoyed. I felt like skipping, and on the inside I did.
I was probably the most self-conscious kid in the history of Wilson Elementary – and afterwards of Preston Junior High. The crutches were long gone but not my limp. Nor the reason for my limp, and that aggravating klip-Thump mantra.
The culprit was the arch of my left foot – rather the absence of an arch.
My first polio bout left me with this keepsake – a left foot with a diving-board-flat arch, and non-functioning tendons. I had nothing to give the foot lift. So the left shoe didn’t know how to step – only to flop or Thump to the floor. My right foot, by contrast, was arched especially high, like a startled cat. So the contradicting sounds my shoes made when crossing any surface was striking. Efforts at treading softly were futile. To my anxious introvert-ears the klutzy sounds of my cadence still sounded – with embarrassing annoyance.
It strikes me as humorous sometimes now – my shoes and me. Our perpetual, private shouting match of those years.
KLIP-THUMP!, KLIP-THUMP! – “shouting” upward from the hallway floor at me. Me scowling downward with a silent retort, Just SHUT UP!
My high school graduation ended all the years of limping self-consciously through school corridors. It was then I started seeing it. I was surprised. And more than a little embarrassed.
I had wasted a lot of time looking down.
Today I try to remind myself (when my lazy left foot catches and sends me into a clumsy stumble or the like). Obsessing over my deficiencies serves a purpose. But not a noble one. It shifts my attention from the All Sufficient One to my pitiful, inadequate self-sufficiency. It leads me to choose anxiety over peace. A really bad tradeoff.
It seems our most paralyzing afflictions aren’t necessarily the physical ones. Indeed, a lot of my limping – my unbelief-limping – issues out of paying attention to concerns that are really of no concern at all.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. – Psalm 23
©2015 Jerry Lout