Sole to soul

If you’re like me, one of the first things I notice about people is their shoes. I’m not sure where this comes from. Maybe it’s because, as babies crawling around, we see a lot of what people wear on their feet. Regardless, there is no doubting the role shoes play in our lives. They’re magical. We want to wear the shoes our heroes and role models wear so we can be them, and shoes transform us into those people.

Have dreams of playing in the NBA? You will wear Lebron’s, Curry’s or Jordan’s. Have dreams of figure skating? You’ll wear the skates of your favorite olympian. Want to play in a rock band? You’ll wear the same kicks as your favorite artist.

Growing up, I was no different, except the shoes I wanted to wear were the ones my dad wore.

At nine years old, I bought my first golf shoes with money I earned from picking up range balls and cleaning clubs in the locker room. Instead of buying new Oxford models like my friends were getting, I proudly purchased brown wingtips with tassels. My dad wore a pair just like them. I can still hear the sound of the metal spikes on the pavement as he walked across the parking lot.

When I was 11 years old, I started playing recreational basketball, and my dad took me to buy shoes. My teammates wore Air Jordan IVs and Reebok Pumps. As we walked into the sporting goods store, I asked my dad what he wore when he played, and he said he wore Converse All-Stars. Ten minutes later, I floated home, holding a brand new pair of teal high-top Chuck Taylors.

Friends at the golf course and kids on other teams in the rec league may have looked made fun of my kicks, but every time I put them on, I laced up with confidence and belief. Like wielding Thor’s hammer, wearing the shoes gave me power. Even on the rare occasion my dad wasn’t there, the shoes reminded me that I had a hero, my father.

By the time I possessed a license, we shared several pairs of Topsiders and dress shoes. Wearing them reminded me I wasn’t sharing just shoes but carrying a name that stood for principles and standards.

We were sole mates.

After college, I started playing professional golf and was fortunate to receive golf shoes from FootJoy. At that point, on the golf course at least, the tables had turned, and I gave my extra pair to my dad for him to wear around the links at Morehead City Country Club. Hopefully, I passed on some confidence to him as he stood over four-foot putts to win some bucks off his buddies.

Today, the tradition comes full circle. I’ve seen both of my sons wear out sneakers that mimic the style that I wear. Like a time machine, their shoes propel them into the future of who they want to be while taking me back to my youth.

Wearing the shoes of a parent, child, friend, or coworker is an essential responsibility because someone is walking in our shoes. The burden and opportunity of this fact are felt every time I lace up.

We all have big shoes to fill.

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