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Reflections on the "Shoe Tree" and the semester
April 19, 2004
By Scott Wigginton

Scott Wigginton, assistant professor of Christian counseling, Boyce College

Long after the magnificent beeches, elegant elms and flaming maples had begun to lose their autumnal splendor, Seneca Park’s “shoe tree” steadily dropped its leaves but steadfastly held its most odd but precious fruit. For some years, beginning in the late 1980s, this “sole-full” hybrid of Nike, Reebok, Converse, Adidas and other assorted brands hung symbolically over the road just past the basketball venue en route to the golf course. I don’t remember the day when I first became enamored with this tree, but I do remember the fun it was imagining how it came into being.

Frederick Law Olmstead, that masterful architect of the Louisville parks system, once envisioned sanctuaries of natural beauty punctuated with opportunities for recreation and fellowship. Perhaps nowhere has this reality been as striking as in the confluence of parks just across from the Southern Seminary and Boyce College campus. Cherokee and Seneca parks and the area known by locals as “Big Rock Park” are wonderful areas for a vast assortment of outdoor activities. Appreciation of an area often drives persons to want to somehow mark it with their presence. This is probably what happened with the “Shoe Tree.” As a way of saying, “I’ve been here,” someone decided to tie their old shoes together and fling them up into the tree. Others followed. And still others. Apocryphal lore and rumor have it that my mother even followed suit at some point! And so the “Shoe Tree” became a living symbol and reminder of peoples’ presence in the park.

Two questions have formed in my mind as I continue to reflect upon the physically extinct, yet spiritually relevant “Shoe Tree.” First, whose shoes are in your tree? Second, into whose trees are you flinging your shoes?

I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to young Timothy when he wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 2:2).

Paul’s words to the church at Thessa-lonica still resound clearly for those of us who teach and learn and share life together at Boyce College, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8).

So much of God’s activity at Boyce occurs in the classrooms and chapel; make no mistake, faithfulness to worship and learning in a structured environment is crucial to “training in godliness.” But there is more!

I think of enjoying God’s gift of humor by playing “Catch Phrase” with Ray at the DeKlavon’s home at midnight... or watching movies with Mitch and Brandon... eating at Plehn’s bakery with Shannon, Ericia, Heather and Amy.... seeing my son play baseball with Adam... talking with Brenise or Ashley at the Rec Center... playing basketball with Dr. Orrick in his headband and camouflage shorts... lifting weights with Dr. Betts... steak with Dave and Troy... sharing office talk with Chad and Tina... not to mention the daily opportunities for conversation in the hall, on the campus and in my office.

The danger of listing names is missing some. Plenty have been missed by my stream of consciousness writing style. If you should have been in the above list, it is because we have had meaningful contact. This is God’s gift, the effect of which needs no external validation but His. Nevertheless, this I believe, that Scripture affirms the now infamous quote of an old counselor, who suggested that many of the things that are the most worth learning are not teachable and that many of the things that are teachable are not worth learning. I know this. More is caught than taught. Much of formation comes through association.

At the end of another semester, I would give thanks for fine and faithful colleagues and students, who continue to fill my tree with their shoes and to open their lives to my size 14s. May it be that we all continue to walk in His steps.


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