To Fully Understand Someone, You Must Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

October 25, 2007
By Christina Chao, East Brunswick, NJ

Judgments and assumptions will always be made throughout life. Because of certain stereotypes, we fail to understand others aside from their role in society. Here, the story of two lovely maidens, one rich and one poor, learn that they should judge others wisely to fully understand and appreciate each other, and their own lives.
Silky crimson curtains were strung high overhead, spanning across the golden expanse of the palace’s ceiling like wings of a phoenix. The palace’s enormous capacity was ornate with many garish decorations. On top of her Egyptian silk sheets, Queen Audrina was sprawled lazily across her grandiose bed waiting impatiently for her servants to tend to her needs. As queen, she had a myriad of events to attend to and many activities planned for the day. Servants have nothing better to do and they need the money, so what is taking them so long? She fidgeted with her opulent gold necklace, and as her impatience grew inside of her, she felt her blood boiling.
Mary, the youthful and sweet servant girl, suddenly came rushing forward with a bottle of perfume to bathe her highness in a fragrance, as if the queen was Christ himself. She was frazzled as she opened the gargantuan golden plated doors to apologize.
“Your Highness, I am so terribly sorry! My father had just passed away last night and I—,” Mary explained.
“NO EXCUSES! YOU ARE MY SERVANT AND YOU MUST OBEY MY ORDERS. THIS WHOLE COUNTRY WON’T LEAD ITSELF YOU KNOW!” screeched the Queen. She thrust the bottle onto the floor and as it shattered into pieces, she commanded Mary to clean it up.
“You must be punished for your incompetence, so you will clean up the glass barefoot as well,” added the Queen. The Queen then rushed out of the room and slammed the door angrily behind her, leaving Mary by herself.
As the glass shards pierced her feet, Mary sobbed uncontrollably because her physical pain seemed to coincide with her emotional distress. Her father had passed away last night, was buried that morning, and here she was serving the most insensitive and demanding human being in the world! It was absurd! How could someone with such a great and lavish life be so cruel and selfish?
Mary already had a hard enough life to live, living in extreme poverty and destitution. However, she would dream of being like the Queen, and when she was younger she would dress up in her mother’s tattered robes, pretending they were the Queen’s royal purple robes and flounce around the fields. Being a servant for the Queen was the closest she would ever be inside a palace without royal blood, and earn enough money to support her family. Her family that was unfortunately as broken as the bottle of perfume shattered on the floor.
As Mary finished cleaning up the broken glass, she decided to head to the doctor for medical treatment. Dr. Gregorian was a new doctor in town, believed to be a healer of the body and the soul. When Mary entered into his shack, she was alarmed that he noticed her tension in an instant.
“ My dear, what you come to me for is not only for your physical scars, but your emotional dissatisfaction,” he simply stated.
“ How did you know I am struggling with my life?” Mary asked.
“That is not of importance, but rather, my dear, what you want to change about your present life,” he said. As he applied ointments and lotions to her wounds, Mary felt an urge to blurt out how she wanted to live the Queen’s life, but stopped herself. What was this man capable of? Was he a magician or some kind of wizard? She hesitated at first, but then deciding that the doctor was nothing more than curious, Mary proclaimed, “I wish I could switch places with the Queen.”
There was a whirlwind of colors drawn from a disparate amount of sources. A blinding light escaped from the window as Mary woke up in the palace, thinking she fell asleep on the job. To her great surprise, she awoke on the Queen’s bed, dressed in the Queen’s robes, and frighteningly reflected the Queen’s features in the full length gold lacquered mirror. What has happened to me? Why am I the Queen? Is this a dream that seems all too real? What did that man do to me? WHERE IS MY BODY?
Little did Mary know, her body was asleep on a haystack nestled snuggly in a small wooden cottage down the road from the palace. Awakened abruptly by the sound of cattle, the Queen had inhabited the body of Mary, waking up extremely frantic in the early morning. Disgusted because she had never before encountered so much filth in her life, the Queen realized she was not herself. HOW DID I END UP IN THIS BODY? HOW WILL I EVER RULE THE COUNTRY AGAIN? WHY AM I BEING PUNISHED? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?

Back at the palace, Mary was enjoying the luxuries of her new inhabitance, indulging in the luxuries of the affluent lifestyle like goose feathered pillows, rose petal bubble baths, and custom made chiffon robes. However, Mary felt like something was indeed missing from the perfect life that she had suddenly inhabited. Even though her soul inhabited the Queen’s body, the Queen’s heart had remained and it was very delicate, allowing Mary to feel every beat and pulse it gave. There was a certain throbbing pain that seemed to occur whenever laughter in the servants’ hall was heard. Whenever she heard the distant voices from the marketplace between the children and their parents, the heart ached as well. Whenever she saw a couple making love, whether it was the birds or the bees, the heart jumped and beat faster. Mary couldn’t quite understand it at first, but as she began to lose interest in the Queen’s material possessions during the first week, she realized she could only enjoy them because that was all that she had. The Queen was always lonely. Mary finally understood the reason for Queen Audrina’s behavior before: she had no love in her life, losing her heart to frustration.

As the Queen inhabited Mary’s body for a week, she also learned lessons like the hard work of the less fortunate class for wealth with greater appreciation, but most importantly, the Queen began to understand love. She found herself traveling to the cemetery every morning to visit the grave of Mary’s father. She found herself wondering about this relationship, and as she found written letters from Mary’s father to Mary, she began to understand the relationship and importance of family. In addition, a handsome man named Patrick would stop by almost daily with flowers for Mary and smother her with hugs and kisses. Just as the heart of the Queen remained in her body, Mary’s heart was revealed to the Queen. The Queen finally experienced love and the feeling of euphoria that swarms the heart when love is present in one’s life. She understood why Mary was always so kind and gentle; it was because of love and her appreciation of wealth, not obsessing over worldly possessions, which secured her happiness.

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