• Eimear Stassin

Walking in Their Footsteps

My father's shoe shine brush

My father would tell the story of how, when he walked the mile or so to primary school as a child with his siblings, his feet would begin to hurt in the shoes he was wearing, so, he would take them off and hide them in a bush by the side of the wee country road. Preferring to go barefoot; collecting the shoes on his way home.

We used to joke as children, asking about which bush; where exactly and what was it like to walk barefoot to school?....Not really knowing if he was being serious!

The local secondary school was too far to walk to so, for various reasons, he was the only one of his siblings that went to boarding school. It was a distance of about 80 Km, travelling from West Cork to East Cork, in the town of Fermoy, only seeing his family at holiday times.

The school still stands today in Fermoy. Up a hill; proudly overlooking the town.

I always wondered what it was like for my father. To walk up that long school path as a 12 or thirteen year old. Away from home. The not knowing. The saying goodbye to his family for great lengths of time.

He no longer had to walk the mile or so to school, but, he did have to wear shoes all day! Shoes that were no longer relegated to the bush. Because as part of his schooling, he had to polish his shoes every single evening and lay them out for inspection.

First he'd polish them; then he'd shine them; then he'd lay them out.

I know this because he carried this ritual with him into adulthood when, on Sunday evenings, he would polish and shine his shoes with the very same brushes that he carried with him from boarding school.

The brush pictured above is his shoe shine brush - thanks to my mum for taking the photo today. I would use this brush too to shine my shoes when I was at home!

Before my father went to boarding school, his brother, my uncle, carved my father's name (A. Calnan) into the wood of the shoe shine brush. I find this incredibly endearing to know now.

A carefully carved memory of ritual and reverence.

Permanently etched there.

How we navigate these times right now is most certainly a one-step-at-a-time practise.

Each and every step we take is a precious one.

How are we going to be with this time that has been collectively carved out for us right now?

Can we bring the same degree of ritual, reverence and care to each and every step that we we choose to take?

I can't help but feel that I'm walking in his footsteps.

That collectively we're walking in their, our ancestors, footsteps in these precious and precarious times, onto unknown paths.

Regardless of how we adorn our feet, how would they want us to step forth as we create this new world?

How would they like us to be in this world?

These are the questions I urge you to walk with as you navigate these times.

As always, let me know how you really are getting on through all of this. Email me.

With love to you wherever you are; however you choose to be and with whatever precious next step you are taking,

Eimear x

Leadership Trainer & Coach @ Stassin.co.uk

Host & Producer of Where's the F in Leadership Global Online Summit

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