I came across an old book about an orphan boy, Otto, in Germany
(in fact, it was translated from German). The book, from 1861,
is Otto, the Miner’s Child.
Here’s one of the stories involving Otto from the book.
The name of the chapter it’s from is False Shame.
The following day was Sunday. Dorothy was to stay in the house, but Otto offered to stay in her place. “Why that?” asked the father. “Don’t you like to go to church? would you rather not accompany us there?”
“I would willingly go with you,” replied Otto, “for a long time I have much wished to go to church, seeing that at my uncle’s I could not go there. But yesterday, while I watched the machine, I struck my left foot against a stone so violently, that all the top of my shoe is torn; my toes are out, and I cannot go to church in this plight.”
“And could you not go barefooted;” said Klapproth.
“No, I should be ashamed,” said Otto. “Yet” objected the father, “you went the day before yesterday barefooted to school?”
“Yes. But the school is not like the church, where every one, in honor of God, goes as well dressed as they can, said Otto.”
“Yes, yes, very true, as well dressed as they can,” said Klapproth. “Since you cannot go better than barefooted, I think you might very well go with us. But I will not force you. Besides, if preoccupied with your shoeless feet, you were inattentive and wandering in thought, that would be yet worse. If only you had earlier told me of this accident, I could have stitched up your shoe. Now it is too late.” Then the father went with his children to church, and Otto went to watch the machine.
“Otto?” said the schoolmaster the next day, “I did not see you at church with the children yesterday?”
“I had no shoes to put on,” said Otto.
“I know it,” replied the master. “Your adopted father has told me. You were ashamed to go barefoot. Tell me then, is it to present yourself thus before God or before men that you are ashamed?”
Otto reflected a little and then said, “Before God.”
“I believe it. Yet God made your feet. How complete and perfect are the works of God! Consider how awkward and ugly is a shoe, if compared to a foot! A shoe soon wears out though at first it is strong, and hard, and heavy, and fatiguing to wear. A human foot is soft and pliable, and light, yet it lasts your life. Are you ashamed of your feet? it is a false shame. I know that some are ashamed to go out with uncovered hands, and who therefore put on them the skin of beasts, even when it is not cold weather. To cover one’s hands and feet, to guard against the cold, is quite another thing.”
Of course, that’s a great lesson.
Unfortunately, the schoolmaster continued in a way that we wouldn’t agree with:
“Besides, when it is agreeable, and one can do it, it is only proper to wear shoes, but when we have no shoes we should be able to dispense with shame.”
Well, I wouldn’t say “proper”. Just conventional.