Have I mentioned I have flat feet? Okay, how many times have I mentioned I have flat feet? My feet are the most annoying part of my body. I’m not referring to appearances. They don’t look that ugly to me. I didn’t say they are attractive; I’ve just seen a lot worse. How vain do you have to be to think your feet are attractive? Perhaps that’s a straight male question.
My feet are so flat that when I walk on tile with wet feet you can see the full imprint of my feet. The annoying aspect of this gift is that I have to be extremely careful when I buy shoes. The slightest arch support can cripple me in a day. When I was working on my doctorate, and quite poor, I bought a pair of shoes that were on sale and looked decent. I took me thirty minutes every morning before I could walk upright and another thirty minutes before I had the courage to put on my tormenters. The wrong pair of shoes can cause me pain from the soles of my feet all the way up to my shoulder blades.
Thanks to Tarzan I have another problem with my feet. Under the preadolescent influence of Johnny Weissmuller I developed a nice tree-swing routine. I would climb up the latter to the top of the garage, jump to the pecan tree griping a limb with my hands and swinging. With perfect timing I landed on Dad’s 55 gallon drum and bounced to the tubular swing set frame and using my hands to swing retained the momentum to fly through the air and land upright ten feet away. I envisioned developing a mid-air flip and landing upright. That was never to be.
Every day I increased the distance from the tree to the drum and the drum to the swing. I moved the drum and swing too far. One day I landed on the drum but at such an angle it wobbled forward. My leap to the swing was off balance and I missed my grip. Down I went with the full force on my right foot snapping it backward. I felt something snap and it hurt like Cheetah the Chimp had just bitten down on it. But when I rolled over everything moved so I knew it was not broken. It swelled to double its normal size but with the aid of an ace bandage I was able to hobble around until it healed. But to this day I have a minor pain on the top of my ankle when I walk for any distance.
Stay with me; I am peripatetic for a purpose.
A few months later I had a major accident. I was mowing the grass and ran over a wire clothes hanger. It was my fault. I had been instructed to bury some old metal hangers under Dad’s pecan tree because a co-worker had told him iron would make a pecan tree bear better. I was a little lazy and didn’t bury them very deep; neither did I pack the ground well. When I stepped on the spot I apparently pivoted one up through the soil. I was pulling the mower at the moment and it grabbed the wire firing it out and through my foot. I wasn’t wearing shoes. And I seem so intelligent. Oh, confession is so good for the soul; I have never told anyone I didn’t bury the hangers deep enough.
The two inch long projectile entered my right foot on the inside, halfway between the ball and the place where normal people have an arch. It wove its way through the bones of my foot (according to the Emergency Room doctor who removed it) and stopped just short of exiting on the other side. It was poking the skin out creating a nipple effect. The ER doctor barely touched it with a scalpel and there it was, at least there was the first half inch. He took a regular pair of pliers and pulled it out. It felt like he was pulling all of my insides, all the way up to the roots of my hair, out through my foot. He said it was a miracle I had no broken bones or damaged nerves in the process. I have retained a scar where it entered, one that hurts when I bump it, and sometimes when I walk I have a pain in the joints of the bones on the side where it came out.
Let me complain a little more. The consequence of these two accidents is that I favor my right ankle and forefoot resulting in a subconscious act of walking with greater impact on the outside of my right heel. Apparently, I developed a pattern of countering this slight imbalance by placing greater pressure on the left front quadrant of my left foot. In short, I walk like a car out of alignment. By the time I was forty I had a major problem developing. The improper alignment of my left foot was causing the bones to squeeze the nerves that run between them into the toes. A protective callous-like tissue formed around the nerves. Unfortunately, that made the space smaller and I had debilitating pain with every step.
My podiatrist said I would eventually need to have the nerves clipped and that day would come when over the counter pain relievers were not enough. He prescribed heavy doses of vitamin B-12 and B-complex and said I might be able to put off the surgery for two or three years. That was fifteen years ago. I am a big believer in vitamin B in its various forms. I am also very careful to buy shoes that support my feet without putting them in a bind. When I go for long walks the soreness is present but never debilitating as in the past. If you have endured this pity party, you have a picture of my podiatal challenges.
Yet, I am so very thankful for my feet. I cannot run but I can walk anywhere I wish to go. I am free to travel, to see places, to meet people without the challenges of impaired mobility. These minor difficulties keep me ever conscious of how important my feet are to me. They hurt because in the carelessness of my youth I neglected them; I failed to realize how desperately I need them.
My feet are also a constant reminder of the importance of every member of a body, especially the body of Christ. Our feet may have little strength but they carry the whole load. They may have little beauty but they bear all the beauty of our lives. They may form the periphery of our existence but they balance and align the frame of our being. I suspect it is those persons whom society chooses to walk upon, the young, the old, the impaired, the ones that carry the greatest burdens of our shared existence, that offer the greatest gifts of stability and progress if we only will protect them and recognize their great worth.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:14-27
New York, NY
June 12, 2010