Most of us want to be a good person to those we love: a friend, a mentor, an ally. Becoming an ally —and I use “becoming” intentionally because I think it’s an evolving, intuitive, and learning process and you never fully arrive —becoming an ally requires your “good listening ears,” steady knees that don’t jerk to conclusions, humility as you learn because you don’t know what you thought you knew, and mindfulness about your role because allyship is not about being a savior or taking charge.

I’m still learning. I have failed many times. I have friends who talk about taking it next level and becoming an accomplice, implying that they’ll stand on the battlefield with their loved one. That’s great when we arrive at the battlefield, but I think it’s important to find our places as allies first. It’s more and harder than you think.

I don’t remember why I wrote this poem in April of 2021. Perhaps it reflects an aha moment during an effort to become a better ally to my friends and family of color, or maybe I wrote the poem to voice my support and love to my LFBTQ+ friends and family. The same protocol applies in either case. Shut up and listen because you don’t know everything. Let your loved ones show you how to support them because they might not want what you think.

I’m sharing this on the last day of Pride month because the LGBTQ+ hate that I see bubbling into law terrifies me. We can do better.


I cannot truly stand in your shoes.
I can stand at your side
to face the rise and fall of the sun,
stand firm with you as the shadows drift,
hold space for you as you ground in your light.
I cannot know what it is to stand in your shoes,
but I can stand with you.

I cannot imagine what it is to be in your shoes.
I can listen to the crunch
of the twigs and pebbles beneath your soles,
the stories of the paths you’ve walked,
the creak of the leather as it bends with the bones of your feet.
I can never know being in those shoes,
but I can listen to you.

I cannot know what it is to walk in your shoes.
I can teeter behind you
along the fallen trunk to cross the chasm,
through the bramble that litters your path,
stepping high over the patches of briars and berries.
I will never walk in your shoes,
but I can walk with you.

I cannot know the shoes on your feet.
But I can sit with you,
our weary feet beneath the table,
where we share stories of callouses and recovery,
blisters born of rough edges, tender arches protected by thick soles.
I cannot know your shoes, nor you mine,
but we can share our hearts.

@Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024