A Shoe Story

"Don’t Enter My Soul With Your Shoes On". It’s the title of a book by Paola Pigani, but also, I think, a gypsy proverb. Any meaningful meeting opens a mutual space where each person reveals a little of himself or herself to enrich the other. Making room in oneself for another person takes time, patience with oneself and with the other. Each person removes their shoes and takes one step towards the other.

My own desire to join the Josefa House as a volunteer invites me to make a detour simply by my presence, to be there freely. I learned and am learning, with every encounter – because every encounter is always a new experience –, to be welcomed by the other person before welcoming him or her, to receive before giving. To come empty-handed, freely, is a disconcerting but necessary step in order to not miss out on the other.

I remember a sentence I saw on a wall during a trip to Brazil: "What matters is not the destination but the journey travelled together". So I take the time to journey, to meet the residents of the Josefa House. During the first meal I shared at the Josefa House, everybody spoke English around the table, and my English is very bad. So there you have it, being forced for various reasons to leave one’s country and arriving in another, with a little luck, we’ll understand one out of four words. That evening, I experienced what it feels like to be an outsider.