Arts & Crafts Magazine

The Beggar's Slippers

By Nancymccarroll
Abraham Verghese brought the story of the beggar's slippers to my attention in Cutting for Stone.  It is worth a reprise here.  (Chapter 29 is the reference point for this story well known to African children.)
The Beggar's Slippers
Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision.  At last, even he couldn't stomach the sight of them.  But his every attempt to get rid of his slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding.  Off Abu Kassem went to jail...Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers.. Why try to lose them? He'll never escape. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don't sow, becomes part of your destiny.
Abraham Verghese has one of his characters say this regarding the topic of making up for absences:
I made up for...(father's)... absence by hoarding knowledge, skills, seeking praise.  What I finally understood ...is that neither my sister nor I realized that my father's absence is our slippers.  In order to start to get rid of your slippers, you have to admit they are yours, and if you do, then they will get rid of themselves...The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't.  If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then your'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more.  Not only our actions, but our omissions, become our destiny. (Cutting for Stone, Chapter 29)
The Beggar's SlippersOver the years, I have tried to rid myself of many pairs of (emotional bondage) slippers: sorrow, grief and regrets are woven into the soles and fabric of my tattered slippers.
After I realized that the "slippers" were mine for a lifetime, they wore better.  Even the calluses caused by the slippers have become part of me. How could I ever rid myself of those experiences which have softened my heart and hardened my insecurities?  For they have helped mold me into one of God's loved, but flawed, creations.

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