A Barefooted Iowa Farm Wife, a Thorny Path, and the Posture of a True Servant

March 16, 2013 | 10 comments

It was such a small, small thing. And I’m no hero. I took off my shoes — my stinkin’ $5 Walmart flipflops — and gave them to the woman in the hut — the woman who really needed them.

And I walked out of her village barefoot. Walked right down that path with my lily-white tender feet, and my skirt balled up in my fists, and that’s when the real gift came: Because there was this other Haitian woman … a woman with a dirt floor and a tarp for a roof … and she went on ahead of me, always a few steps ahead, and cleared a path for my feet, afraid I’d step on one of those painful thorns that would have sent me into a fit. She picked up thorns upon thorns, and she brushed sticks to the side. And she kept bending over, and again once more, for me — the barefooted, tenderfooted American.

I think I might weep now, remembering it all, remembering that her sacrifice was far more than mine, how she kept stooping low to help a fellow human being.

And all I did was give up a pair of $5 flipflops. I have 10 more, besides.

(I just can’t stop thinking about her, the woman who stooped low. Can’t stop thinking about what it really means to give, and how her posture is the posture of the giver. This post first shared on my Facebook page, but I wanted to share it with you as well today…)

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

by | March 16, 2013 | 10 comments


  1. marcia moston

    Amazing how many ways, how many layers there are to honor another. Beautiful.

  2. Karen

    Yes~ makes me think about what I’m doing as opposed to what I could be doing… very good, very thought provoking post!
    Thank you!!!!

  3. Gabriela

    Hello! I just wanted to share that I had a similar experience in Jacmel, Haiti! I went for a nursing/building/teaching missions trip 2 years ago. One of those days, while helping one of the teachers with her English class, I started feeling dizzy (it’s was so hot). I suddenly fainted and the teacher and some Haitian boys walked me to the neighbor’s house (where there was water). The neighbor sat me on a chair and poured buckets of cold water on me. She then proceeded to dry me and take me into her house to give me food, water and HER clothes and sandals (mine were wet and muddy). I went to “serve” and that neighbor taught me the meaning of true service and compassion. It was a humbling experience!

    Thank you for your post!

  4. Sandra Heska King

    I love seeing this again. I haven’t forgotten the story from the first time you told it. I wore Keens to Haiti. I had just those and a pair of flip flops I wore at the guest house so I didn’t track in dirt. Some of the children at the orphanage had shoes–not well-fitting, but shoes–and some had none–or chose not to wear them. A couple of my girls (who had shoes and whose feet were much smaller) asked for mine repeatedly. Did I give them up? No… of course, not.

  5. lynndmorrissey

    Oh Jennifer!!!!! There are no words……..in St. Louis, on Christian radio, I keep hearing an ad from “The Shoe Guy,” who wants our “soles” to he can sell them and dig wells for the thirsty abroad. And have I cleared shoes from my closet? No. Thank you for such a poignat reminder of how blessed I am…..but also that I am not blessing others. I will give them away. The thorns? They prick my heart.
    God bless you, Jennifer.

  6. floyd

    Isn’t that how God always works? He moves our hearts to give in love… and then He breaks our heart – expanding it to encompass even more of the love and wisdom from Him and from the ones we had the heart for in the first place. The compassion, love, and grace of our Father is revealed and His name is praised. Wonderful post, Jennifer. Absolutely wonderful.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    Oh my goodness, what a story! Somehow, I missed this on Facebook so thank you for putting it here. I only wish it had gone up yesterday, because it would have been the perfect closing to the sermon I preached this morning. Oh, my. LOVELY.

  8. Duane Scott

    This. Jennifer. Oh.

    Love it.

    It goes right down the line of the post I’m posting on my blog tomorrow. Well, it’s after 2 a.m. so technically today but oh, you have inspired me and I thank you for showing me the way to loving so openenly and painfully.

  9. Jillie

    Oh Jennifer…The Love shown by one worse off than we….breaks us wide open. Humbling.

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    Such a poignant story you’ve shared, Jennifer, creating a powerful visual image. The love and humility of that Haitian woman blazes from afar, a shining example for all of us.


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