The Man With No Shoes
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842m peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc without hiking or climbing.
It was May when we were there, and even though the grass was green and the flowers were in bloom at the bottom of the mountain, there was snow at the top.
It was at the top of the mountain where I saw him — the man with no shoes.
Yes, no shoes.
He was standing in a full snowsuit — bright red splashing against the snow that surrounded us. His arms were covered, his legs were covered, he was wearing a hat — but he had no shoes on.
I whispered to my husband, “He has no shoes!”
As I told this to my husband, another traveler approached this man and said, “Excuse me, Sir, but may I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” said The Man With No Shoes.
“Why aren’t you wearing any shoes?”
He paused, and then he smiled, and then he asked her why she was wearing shoes. He told her that he came out of his mother wearing no shoes, and that’s how he wanted to be in the world — barefooted and free.
She smiled and laughed, and then asked him some other questions. There were about ten people at the top of this mountain, gazing at the wonder and majesty that is the French Alps, and yet, for a moment, everyone stopped to take in this conversation between two strangers.
At that moment, the snow didn’t matter.
At that moment, the cold didn’t matter.
At that moment, we learned that the traveler who was brave enough to ask The Man With No Shoes questions was from hailed from Argentina, herself. She was a photographer, and so was her boyfriend, and they were traveling for work.
In that moment, we learned that The Man With No Shoes had a wife who called him crazy for not wearing any shoes. We learned that he had a friend from Florida — and they came to Chamonix every year.
At that moment, we learned that leaning into curiosity can be a beautiful, magical, and wonderful thing. It can lead people to unexpected conversations, and it can leave people with impressions on their hearts that will last a lifetime.
It would’ve been easy from the woman from Argentina not to say anything. It would’ve been easy to look the other way, and put some label on The Man With No Shoes, and silently make up a story about why he was standing at the top of a mountain with bare feet.
It would’ve been easy to do that — but I’m so glad she didn’t.
Because of her curiosity, we learned a bit about the strangers whom we stood with upon that mountaintop.
Because of her curiosity, the world felt a bit more small, too.
Lean into learning about the world and the people around you.
Ask questions with a lens of love and curiosity- and you may be surprised at what you may find.