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Bear in Tennis Shoes

My son was about six years old at the time. We’d gone for a hike and were focused on tracks in the sand. See, these are lizard tracks. They look like they were made by a snake but you can tell it was a lizard by the little claw marks from his legs along the sides. And see, these are rabbit tracks. Can you see the larger prints on the front and the smaller ones behind? Look how it must have scampered. And these hoof marks were made by a horse because you can clearly see the horseshoe prints.

He studied each track carefully before heading down the trail ahead of me looking for more evidence of wildlife. Suddenly he cried out. Look, Mom! Bear tracks! I hurried over, my mind racing. Where there are bear tracks there are bears and I never enjoy running into a bear. Where? I asked, my heart pounding. He pointed to the ground. See, mom, this bear was wearing tennis shoes!

Over the years I have reflected on my son’s observation. For example, I’ll be watching politics on TV and wonder. Is this guy a bear wearing tennis shoes? Or is he just a guy with bear feet? Either way it’s deceiving. I think the whole lot of them should just kick off their shoes (or their feet) and leave a trail that can be accurately interpreted. Footprints you could follow (or not) confidently, knowing that what you see is purely and simply what you get. I don’t want to be lead on a path of illusion or delusion.

Or maybe I’ll be having lunch with someone who says something derogatory about a person they normally care about. Makes me nervous because maybe the next time I’m not around they’ll leave footprints all over me. I resist the urge to look under the table to check their footwear.

I recently sat in a courtroom listening to both sides of a case. Both the prosecution and defense attorneys laid out compelling evidence, one side showing horrific guilt, the other claiming innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. At least one side was wearing tennis shoes to create a false image of the defendant. It was up to the jury to decipher the tracks correctly.

Now lest you think I’m a skeptic, let me assure you I don’t always question the authenticity of everything around me. It's highly possible that a lizard can scoot on his back with his legs in the air to make me think he’s a rattlesnake and maybe not all tennis shoe tracks are made by humans. For that matter, those stiletto heel prints in the sand could have been made by a fashion conscious lemur.