"I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet” means that, while one can despair about one’s wealth or situation, there is always someone poorer or less fortunate. The aphorism has been cited in print since at least The Gulistan, or The Rose Garden (1259) of the Persian poet Sa’di. English citations of the saying have been in print since at least the 1800s.
“I felt bad because I had no shoes, then I saw someone with really ugly shoes” is one of several humorous variations from the 1990s.
Wikipedia: Gulistan of Sa’di
The Gulistan (Persian: گلستان Golestȃn “The Rose Garden") is a landmark of Persian literature, perhaps its single most influential work of prose. Written in 1259 CE, it is one of two major works of the Persian poet Sa’di, considered one of the greatest medieval Persian poets. It is also one of his most popular books, and has proved deeply influential in the West as well as the East. The Gulistan is a collection of poems and stories, just as a rose-garden is a collection of roses. It is widely quoted as a source of wisdom. The well-known aphorism still frequently repeated in the western world, about being sad because one has no shoes until one meets the man who has no feet “whereupon I thanked Providence for its bounty to myself” is from the Gulistan.
The minimalist plots of the Gulistan’s stories are expressed with precise language and psychological insight, creating a “poetry of ideas” with the concision of mathematical formulas. The book deals with virtually every major issue faced by mankind, with both optimism and subtle satire. There is much advice for rulers, in this way coming within the mirror for princes genre. But as Eastwick comments in his introduction to the work, there is a common saying in Persian, “Each word of Sa’di has seventy-two meanings”, and the stories, alongside their entertainment value and practical and moral dimension, frequently focus on the conduct of dervishes and are said to contain sufi teachings.
Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.
AUTHOR: Sadi (1184–1291)
QUOTATION: I never complained of the vicissitudes of fortune, nor suffered my face to be overcast at the revolution of the heavens, except once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes. I came to the chief of Kfah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience, and exclaimed,
“Roast fowl to him that’s sated will seem less
Upon the board than leaves of garden cress.
While, in the sight of helpless poverty,
Boiled turnip will a roasted pullet be.”
ATTRIBUTION: SADI, The Gulistan, or Rose Garden, trans. Edward B. Eastwick, chapter 3, story 19, p. 129 (1880).
I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet where is this from and is it the complete story?
This quote is most certainly based on poetry from the Gulistan (or “Rose Garden") of Sa’di (or at least this is the earliest example this researcher was able to find). The book is from 1259 CE, so this will predate any other attribution out there. At one time, my full answer to this question was available online, but the Stumpers library reference archive changed to Wombat, and I couldn’t find my original answer in this new format. The original source for this saying reads:
I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited: ‘A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table And to him who has no means nor power A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.’
The Gulistan, or, Flower-Garden, of Shaikh Sadi of Shiraz:
Translated into English by James Ross
London: J. M. Richardson
I HAD never complained of the vicissitudes of fortune, nor murmured at the ordinances of heaven, excepting on one occasion, that my feet were bare, and I had not wherewithal to show them. In this desponding state, I entered the metropolitan mosque at Cufah; and there I beheld a man that had no feet. I offered up praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness to myself; and submitted with patience to my want of shoes.—“in the eye of one satiated with meat, a roast fowl is less esteemed at his table than a salad; but to him who is stinted of food, a boiled turnip will relish like a roast fowl.”
13 September 1856, New York (NY) Ledger, “Common Blessings” by William Roderick Lawrence, pg. 6, col. 3:
A philosopher who was complaining because he had no shoes to his feet, was imediately cured of his murmuring at the ways of a kind providence, by meeting with a poor fellow who had no feet at all. We can be placed in but few situations in life, where we shall not find others worse off than ourselves, giving us reason for being contented with out lot.
May 1908, The Labor Digest, pg. 35:
Contentment and peace of mind is often gained by comparing our lot in life with that of others who are not as well off as we. Hafiz, the Persian poet, had this in mind when he wrote, “1 murmured against Allah that I had no shoes. I went abroad and met a man who had no feet, and I went home contented.”
23 June 1917, THe TImes-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Eve Up-to-Date,” pg. 6, col. 7:
THERE is a Hindu proverb which gives a good deal of satisfaction to a thinking person. It runs thus:
“I had no shoes to my feet and I murmured until I met a man along the road with no feet.”
Putting “it” in the column
By Melville Clemens Barnard
Los Angeles, CA: DeVorss & Co.
You might make your philosophizing more effective by perhaps quoting the old Arab proverb, “I had no shoes and complained — until I met a man who had no feet.”
2 March 1941, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “Wally’s Wagon” by Wally Boren, Pg. WM15:
Maybe, you think it’s silly, but Jake an’ me like it. It reads: “I complained because I had no shoes—Then I saw a man who had no feet.” WALLY BOREN
October 1946, The Rotarian, pg. 59, col. 1:
There is a quotation posted in various offices which reads: “I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
23 March 1952, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Davey inspires Lew Tendler to share wisdom” by Robert Cromie, pt. 2, pg. A5:
“You know, when I sold papers I felt very discouraged and blue because I had no shoes. Then I saw a guy with no feet.”
Google News Archive
21 June 1954, Youngstown (OH) Daily Vindicator, “Welch Was ‘Star” at Capital Hearings” by H. I. Phillips, pg. 13, col. 6:
“The Unconquered,” a movie of the life of Helen Keller, is a tremendously moving “movie” and unforgettable is the line, “I cried when I had no shoes...until I met a man who had no feet.”
Google News Archive
1 April 1966, Nashua (NH) Telegraph, “Look at Washington: The Lady From New Delhi” by James Reston (New York Times News Service), pg. 4, col. 5:
She (Indira Gandhi—ed.) quoted an old Indian proverb: “I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
My Point—and I Do Have One
By Ellen DeGeneres
New York, NY: Bantam Books
(Remember the saying: “I felt bad because I had no shoes, then I saw someone with really ugly shoes?”)
The Internet Movie Database
Memorable quotes for
“Will & Grace” Sweet (and Sour) Charity (2000)
Karen Walker: Maybe it’s like it says in the Bible - I felt bad because I had no shoes, but then I met someone who had really bad shoes.
May 16, 2007
I cursed my fate because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet.
Who the hell said that? I can’t even figure it out with Google. Anonymous, apparently. One used to hear that old saying all the time. It was a big cliché, but I don’t think people know it anymore.
“I cried because I had no shoes, ‘till I met a man who had no feet. So I said, ‘You got any shoes you’re not using’?” --- Stephen Wright
5/16/07 11:04 PM
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • (2) Comments • Thursday, March 08, 2012 • Permalink
That is so true, all people have problems, no one is exempted and there’s always someone who has a bigger problem than you so just fight and move on and stay content.
I don’t know how who said those words. I agree with the saying. If we related it with the sadness of life. People always think about how we can own the things and get upset. When we saw the sadness of other people that time we came to know that our life is good than other. So I think we should enjoy each and every moment of life instead of being sad.