During my senior year at Santa Clara University, I worked a job in one of the campus’ most beautiful buildings. The walls of the bright, naturally-lit interior were lined with a collection of black and white photographs depicting influential peacemakers from around the world. All of them are striking portraits, capturing men and women with strong postures and warms smiles. Only two photographs are exceptions. In addition to a headshot of the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, there are two other photographs of her–one of her old, maternal hands; the other, of her tiny deformed feet.
I always found myself standing in front of those feet. I have not seen a pair of feet like them anywhere else–so worn and, honesty, quite ugly. I was drawn to them nevertheless because, while I could have never imagined feet like those, when I stood before them I always thought to myself, “Yes, these are exactly what the feet of Mother Teresa would look like.” That is, like feet contorted by her ceaseless labor, her walking back and forth along the streets of Calcutta where she cared for the poorest. The sores of her feet were a tangible manifestation of the difficult work that she embraced with such love and altruism.
Most of us don’t have feet like those–feet that reflect the streets we choose to walk. We protect our feet with socks and shoes, and hide the few imperfections they bear. As this year comes to a close, however, I have been wondering what my feet would like like if they did, actually, reflect where I have been. Where did I choose to place my footsteps this year? Where have I been? And how were this year’s footsteps different from those of the last few years?
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, partially for the sake of avoiding the pressure that accompanies them, and also because I have a resistance to measuring life by things that I can check off a list. That seems to be the form of most resolutions. As I think about those small, saintly feet, though, it occurs to me that it might be useful to ask where I want to place my footsteps this year: What are the experiences I want to walk through? This question seems different than a resolution.
Where have your footsteps treaded this year? And where are you going to take them in the year ahead?
Jessica Coblentz is currently a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. Follow her writing on the Web at www.jessicacoblentz.com.