One of the perks of my job is having the opportunity to meet new people every day. With a new patient, there is generally a few minutes where we make small talk to get to know each other a little bit. Almost without fail, I get the question, “So why did you choose feet?” I usually joke about it being much cleaner than working with snot, vomit, coughs, poop, or genitalia. Or I may answer with something general such as having a chance to treat a wide range of problems from severe trauma down to ingrown nails. I love the variety and I love that there are always new skills to learn. However, while these are some of the reasons I chose podiatry initially, over the years I have developed some new ideas on the subject that I would like to share.
Let me paint a picture for you. When someone asks me, “Why did you choose feet?” it is helpful if you can envision their face. Their eyes are squinty, their nose is usually crinkled up, and you can often see their top row of teeth sneering at you. You can quickly surmise that the question they really want to ask is “Why would anyone want to deal with stinky feet all day? Do you have a foot fetish or something?” So let me go ahead and end the suspense in case you were wondering. No. I do not have a foot fetish. And this may surprise you, but most people don’t have gross feet. In fact, most people make sure their feet don’t stink before they come to the foot doctor. Kind of like brushing your teeth before going to the dentist. In fact, it is not out of the ordinary for people to get pedicures done right before coming in because they are embarrassed of their feet. A little overboard if you ask me, but whatever makes you comfortable. Of course, there are the exceptions. Some people have severe infections that no amount of soap is going to fix. There are also plenty of teenagers who just have a general “funk” about them, but you get so used to these things that you don’t notice after a while.
So enough rambling about how feet smell. Why do I really look forward to my job dealing with feet? I would like to direct you to a text in the Bible that will help me clarify:
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
In ancient Israel, people wore sandals. Everywhere. Talk about dusty, dirty, stinky feet. Washing someone’s feet was the job of the lowliest servant because who would want to do that? So when someone would take the time to wash your feet for you, it was a really big deal. Especially if that person was your superior (notice Peter’s resistance in the previous passage). A great example of someone humbling themselves before you, if you will. John 13:16 says “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Many of you have not had the privilege of working in a surgical specialty, but to say that there are many doctors with a “God complex” is not an understatement. Surgeons tend to be competitive by nature. Top that off with the way they are often catered to by staff, reps, and patients, and you can see how one can easily get a big head. A really big head. I love that I have an opportunity to operate at the bottom of the operating table where the feet are. I don’t work on the head like the neurosurgeons or the heart like the cardiothoracic guys. Every day I have the opportunity to greet people at their feet. To humble myself before patients who come from all walks of life. I have started to embrace the question “Why would you choose feet?” It reminds me that I am not a hot shot doctor. I am a servant. Exactly what my Savior called me to be.