“Pick one shoe.”

A short reflection upon reading the preface of Tima Kurdi’s book The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home:

It’s so important and helpful to have these particular stories of individuals, sometimes with photos – memoirs written that are so descriptive and that completely endear a person to the personalities in the story and it really reminds me of how, when I was visiting Auschwitz, the survivors and the guides would say, ‘Okay, we’re going to go into this barrack and see the shoes. And you’re going to see thousands and thousands of shoes. But don’t look at all of them because it’s too immense. Instead, just pick one shoe and focus on it and think about the person whose feet filled that shoe, or that pair of shoes, because it’s the only way to begin to contemplate anything meaningful – not as an abstraction, but always personal.’

Have you ever noticed how, when you meet someone from a country about which you’ve had no previous knowledge or to which you’ve had no previous connection, that person becomes for you, in a sense, that entire country? That person becomes a window into the country for you, the reason for your most preliminary interest in and affection for a place that before was simply foreign. Books, too, can bond us in this way, can instil in us this preliminary sense that this person, this place, this region, this conflict, this crisis, etc. concerns me. And this is a marvellous thing.

As I read more during quarantine, I feel that I am travelling just as much as before – only now through books.

One thought on ““Pick one shoe.”

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