Walking A Mile In Another’s Moccasins — What Tracks Will We Leave Behind?

The name of this heartfelt poem by Mary T. Lathrap (1838-1895) was originally titled “Judge Softly” when written in 1895, and has later come to be known by its most famous and quoted line — “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins.”

This line was quoted by my Mother to me over and over growing up, and has been attributed to various Native American tribes, but comes from this poem by Mary Lathrap. Whether she was inspired by a direct Native American contact or not I have yet to find, but it reads as heavily influenced by the conditions of Native Americans both on and off the reservations at the time.

Regardless,  it is not the title which is significant in the end,  but rather the meaning and true message of the words of Compassion, Kindness, Empathy, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Understanding still so relevant and needed in our world today, over a hundred years after it was written. Have you walked in another’s moccasins?


“Judge Softly”

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895


“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave,” is a Lakota Native American proverb. Words of wisdom to be kept foremost in mind when choosing our actions and reactions, and the individual impacts each make upon the world around us today. And the far-reaching effects on the world we will be leaving for our children and posterity. What tracks do we each choose to leave when confronted with choices of kindness and peace, or exclusion and violence?

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us. When we find ourselves rushing to judge others, we reveal more about ourselves as being someone who feels the need to judge, than about the other person. We never know what storms others may have been called to walk thru in their lives, and each of us is carrying a burden, whether seen or unseen.

Choose to brighten someone’s journey and share your smile, a kind word, or gesture today, and truly be the change you wish to see in the world.  — Jim (and Red!)


“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  — Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)             


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“Open your mind to the world and the many different ways that can be found in it, before making hasty judgments of others. After all, the very same thing that you judge from where you are— may very well be something totally different in meaning on the other side of the world. The problem with making hasty judgments is that it will emphasize your ignorance at the end of the day.”  — C. JoyBell C.


“Empathy — Walking a Mile in Their Moccasins”

As a kid growing up, to me my Mother was a suburban housewife, no different from all the other kids’ moms.  Getting me off to school in the morning, keeping up the house while dad worked, having dinner ready when he got home.  Doing the shopping and all the other household tasks of a 1950’s and 60’s housewife.

Only now, can I look back to realize and appreciate the rich Southern, Country and Native American background and traditions that my mother also brought to my upbringing. She had familiar and time-worn phrases that she would repeat over and over again which have stayed with me all my life. In retrospect, she was probably the wisest person I have ever known. One of her favorite admonitions was — “Never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their moccasins,” from the 1895 poem by Mary T. Lathrap.

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Everyone has a story and a chapter they are living today in that story, and we are all part of the whole.  What happens to one of us happens to all of us.    The world needs more Empathy.  So often we toss out the well-intentioned “Hey, how ya doin’?” without pause while we keep on walking.   What if we stopped our own pursuits  for a minute and meaningfully asked — “Really, how are you doing?”  And cared.

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The following is a wonderful, heartfelt video produced by the Cleveland Clinic which can be extended beyond the hospital walls to the world outside.   When you look at someone, do you observe the outward appearance of the person in front of you, or do you feel and see the story of the individual?

 “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” — Henry David Thoreau

Everyone is living their own story, facing their own struggles and battles, most of which we are not aware, and it gets lonely in the trenches sometimes. We need to take the time and make the effort to learn the stories to let someone know they are not alone.

Thanks as always for visiting!  Help make the world a more caring and better place today.   — Jim  (and Red!)

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