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Thursday, September 15, 2011

And then I met a man who had no feet

Many moons ago, I was perusing a gift shop after dinner in a nearby restaurant.

The walls of the shop were filled with corny aphorisms on plaques or plates that are at times amusing, sometimes even trenchant, but just as often cause you to wince at the sometimes-cloying sentiments for sale.

One that I have remembered, and likely will always remember as a reminder to impose perspective on the importance of events in one’s life, went as follows: “I felt sorry that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

A brief search on the Internet suggests it is a Jewish proverb.

I was reminded of the saying late Sunday morning, as my wife and I watched CNBC on television, in which the survivors of those who had perished on Sept. 11, 2011 read the names of the deceased.

Just a few hours earlier, I was in a foul mood late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, and woke up on Sunday still out of sorts, as a result of a football game.

My beloved Fighting Irish, with a 17-point lead going into the final quarter, allowed Michigan to score 28 points in a single quarter of football, enabling them to win the game 35-31.
Let me congratulate my friends who are Michigan fans, as my son Matthew did in a Facebook post on Sunday.

It was a weird, improbable victory, but it’s the only thing that matters in these contests, especially as your team is 0-2 as the season begins.

But it’s a game, right? Easy to say, and the intellect recognizes the wisdom of the saying, but it’s hard to forget a discouraging, frustrating loss in a contest over which you have no control.
Like the scene in the television show Seinfeld where someone runs up to Jerry and says, “We won, we won!”

To which Jerry Seinfeld replies, “No. They won. You watched.”

How true.

So, as Jan and I watched the unspeakably sad, tragic ceremony in New York City in which the names of the victims were read, I was reminded yet again of just how lucky I’ve been in my 60 years walking this earth, and the memory of a lost football game receded. What emerged in its place was thankfulness and gratitude, and more than a little embarrassment at my small-mindedness and skewed priorities.

I’m working on it. And maybe, depending on the context, it helps to laugh at yourself a bit.
Like the late comedian George Carlin’s edgy take on the proverb: “I felt sorry that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

“I took his shoes. Now I feel better.”

Gerald LaVaute is a staff writer for Heritage Newspapers. He can be reached at or call 1-734-429-7380. Check out our staff blog at


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