We all come into this world barefoot. We are all essentially the same—the same heart beating, the same little lungs taking their first breath. And the same naked little toes on the end of adorable feet. A unique and unrepeatable person whose features are at the same time wonderfully familiar.
It’s only later that we begin to mask this sameness, to cover it with distinct trappings that say, “I’m me, and not you.” And while it’s so important express our authentic selves, we can take this costuming of ourselves too far. We can fall into thinking that beyond being unique, we are actually superior to some others…”I in my business suit or latest Prada am far too superior to speak to you in ragged jeans…I am in a class above.”
Fashion, finance, culture…so many things we can use to separate ourselves from others, and forget that we are all born into the same human family. We are all born barefoot, and whichever shoes we acquire afterwords are gifts, extras, luxuries, not meant to mask this essential sameness.
So why this meditation on bare feet? Well, it’s because one of the great things that attracted me to the children’s books I’ve just started selling, Barefoot Books, is this beautiful celebration of our world’s cultural diversity, in all its splendid colour and vibrancy. And in celebrating this through traditional children’s stories from people all around the world, Barefoot Books at the same time emphasize the commonality of the human experience.
Whatever our culture, whether we are a rich Norse Queen or a poor African mother walking for miles to buy a cup of flour, we are human; we hope, love, suffer, hunger, and rejoice. We have families, dreams, and stories, and we all need to share them. Our vision of life-—our history, poetry, art and music—all enrich the world and form a part of the splendid tapestry of humanity.
In a world so caught up in superficial differences, I think these tales of diverse cultures are refreshing and important for our children, to help them grow up with a heart that understands that all people are part of the same human family, worthy of our love and respect. So I hope you’ll kick off your shoes and go Barefoot this summer with your kids!