By Yelena Sapin

Photos by Patti Hartog

You know that saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? What if you could really do that? Who would you become if you could slip into another woman’s shoes and step into her life? Look down at your feet. You’re wearing your favorite black boots, that ankle-length, low-heeled pair you practically live in. You’re oSha Shireman, and it’s a Wednesday.

You just arrived at your York Street office in downtown Louisville. You got up at 6am – reluctantly, you’re not a happy early riser – drank a green smoothie, read the news, caught up on social media, worked on some projects, and listened to NPR on your way to work.

As communications and development specialist at Seed Capital KY, a position you’ve had for just a few months, your main focus is the West Louisville FoodPort project. You love the job. Advocacy work and the nonprofit sector are your passions, and although you just graduated from the University of Louisville in 2014, you’ve been involved in leadership and community development for years.

Rendering of the West Louisville FoodPort that will be built at 3029 Muhammad Ali Boulevard. The organization hopes to begin construction in August of 2016.

You settle down in front of your computer with some of the lentil tofu chili you made on Sunday. Yesterday you were busy writing grants – the FoodPort project is still in the development and fundraising phase – and today’s agenda is filled with meetings. This midday break is your time to do some research and let your mind wander into creative territory. You’re constantly on the lookout for new information and fresh ideas you can use in your work. There’s still so much to learn.

You usually work until about 6 o’clock, but because it’s Wednesday, you’re leaving early and heading to the YMCA. The Y’s 10-week-long Metro Youth Advocates (MYA) program is in session, and you’ve been an MYA facilitator since the program’s inception, helping youth develop leadership and community advocacy skills. You love working with the high school kids, especially with those who haven’t found their voice yet.

As an introvert yourself — albeit a social one who can talk a mile a minute — you know that people who listen more than they speak tend to have the smartest things to say. You seek out the quieter kids at the table and try to pull them into the conversation. And when you see their faces and postures change as they realize they’re being heard, you know that this is just the beginning for them — that they’re going to keep asking questions, keep standing up and saying, “I have something to contribute.”

You wonder what creative dish you can come up with for dinner as you head home to the downtown apartment you share with your girlfriend and a cat named Daniel. You miss the country and being on the farm – your dream is to someday own and live on one – but for now your apartment, with its proximity to work, will do just fine. Besides, the Ohio River nearby is the same one you grew up near in rural Meade County.

When the weather and your schedule cooperate, you get your fix of nature by going down to the river to walk or jog. And when life gets overwhelming, you drive home to the country. Just a couple of hours of working outside with your hands is always enough to ground you, to remind you that things don’t have to be complicated, that you can be OK just mowing the grass and weeding the garden.

You didn’t have to attend an event or meet anyone tonight, so after dinner you played some Bananagrams with your girlfriend and read for a while. Evening is a treasured time for you. Sometimes you write poetry or journal. You also like to draw, although you joke that your brothers, sisters, and your mom — she capitalized the “s” in your name to make it look more balanced — are the real artists in the family.

You wind down from the day with a bedtime ritual — shower, foot massage, hot tea with lemon in your favorite Louisville Stoneware mug, the one with piglets on it that reminds you of the farm, and most importantly, some quiet time alone to meditate and calm your mind. It’s OK if you didn’t get everything done, you remind yourself — you can’t accomplish everything. This was a good enough effort for the day.