The things shoes can teach us

The day I lost my shoes, and how I turned that into an opportunity.

Dorothy lost hers. I forgot mine. My wife broke hers. I speak of shoes, of course.

So why are we all smiling? We each have our reasons, and here they are…

Dorothy’s shoes

Dorothy is that sweet little girl who broke in that bustin’ bronco of a tornado, landing in Oz and inheriting magic ruby slippers from a dead wicked witch.

For most people, the story ends when Dorothy loses her precious slippers somewhere over the scorching desert that surrounds Oz … much like a Congressman loses his power when he flies out of Washington and crosses over the gridlock on the scorching mid-summer Beltway.

Just as a Congressman is bound to return to Washington sooner or later, Dorothy actually does return to Oz many times. In fact, there are dozens more books in the Oz series featuring hundreds of almost unknown characters.

With or without the power of her ruby slippers, Dorothy makes her way back to enjoy a multitude of unbelievable adventures with her favorite misfits.

Shoe lesson number one. When you lose your shoes, improvise.

When you lose your shoes, improvise

My shoes

I discovered my shoes were missing also while flying high in the sky.

Back in my days as a consumer advocate, I was on my way to deliver a speech in Newfoundland, sharing the lectern with the Newfoundland Minister of Transportation.

Sitting comfortably in the airplane seat, my mind was bobbing aimlessly on an ocean of emptiness. Suddenly I broke out in a cold sweat as I realized I had forgotten my dress shoes at home. In fact, they were waiting faithfully by the front door, ready to greet me upon my return.

In a matter of seconds I torpedoed through one thought after the other:

Yikes! I’m wearing running shoes for an important speech.

I know, I can buy a new pair when I land.

Too late; the stores are already closed.

What about in the morning?

No, tomorrow is Sunday and my speech is scheduled for 9:00 a.m.

90 seconds later, the cold sweat had miraculously been replaced with a single affirmation: ‘I will improvise’

The next morning, I began my speech: ‘You might be wondering why I am wearing running shoes today. Well, it’s about this petition here. When I’m done speaking, I’ll be running door to door and I want every one of you to come running with me, too.’

It was not the speech I had come to deliver, but it worked just as well. Better, in fact. My little ‘goof-up’ became a clever demonstration of action speaking louder than words.

Shoe lesson number two. When you forget your shoes, improvise.

My wife’s shoes

My brother was getting married. We had just witnessed the signing of the papers at their house, and they were rushing over to another place for the the ceremony. Don’t ask!

As we locked up their house, my wife’s sandal broke. She tried walking in it, but to no avail. So off to the nearest shoe store we flew – figuratively, that is. This is not another story about losing shoes hundreds or thousands of feet above a desert or a traffic jam.

We knew they would wait for us before starting the ceremony. What we did not know is how long they would wait.

That day, my wife performed a miracle that no other woman has done before or since. She went into the store and came out just five minutes later with the perfect pair of sandals – smashing to smithereens the old woman-shopping-for-shoes Olympic record!

Shoe lesson number three. When you break your shoes, improvise.

Perhaps the most important lesson here is that, contrary to popular belief, the shoe does not make the man (or woman). But the lack of shoes sure can build character.

And it gives us a great opportunity to improvise.


  1. Interesting learning David Leonhardt. I liked it very much…shoes can also teach us and the way you began your speech was killer…. thats called presence of mind. Great Post

  2. Great stories with good morals! Enjoyed reading. I am one of those women who own many pairs of shoes, but do not have the appropriate pair for any occasion 🙂 I must learn to improvise.

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