It's funny how something like remembering to throw on a pair before you leave your house seems insignificant and arbitrary.... until you decide to go without them and
- walk the mile from your apartment to campus...
- come close to catching frostbite while walking the around the grocery section in Target...
- realize the path you're walking on is covered with geese poop...
- have to walk across railroad tracks....
- realize that you'll sever a toe by stepping on shards of glass unless you pay attention to EVERY step you take...(and let's not forget that glass is SEE THROUGH-it blends right into asphalt, ok?)
- realize that while grass is soft, welcoming, and gives way underneath your feet, asphalt is not-it's cold, hard, jagged, and jarring to the shins.
- people stare, point, whisper, or pull you aside at the bank and interrogate you because being barefoot at the bank makes you look "suspicious." (Really, Mr. Bank Manager? I didn't even HAVE a hoodie on)
My kids and I have pairs to wear everyday, but there are millions around the world who don't. To be honest, when I think of people who are living in poverty, having a pair of shoes to wear isn't something I've ever considered. Access to clean water? Yes, I think about that. Food? Yes, I think about that. Clothing? Yes, I think about that. But shoes? I never gave much thought to how much of an advantage it is to have a pair to put on my feet as I go throughout my day....or what it must be like to go without.
That's why I'm grateful organizations like TOMS that exist to make me realize how ignorant and navel-gazey I can be. In case you don't know, they are a business with a simple mission: to help as many children as possible own a pair of shoes. You buy a pair of TOMS shoes, a child in need receives a pair in return. Sounds simple right? I mean think about it....when was the last time you KNOW something you bought for your own well-being enhanced that of another?
While I've always thought that walking barefoot on the streets was unsanitary and gross, I never expanded that thought towards thinking about those who are forced to do so. The walk from my apartment to my campus alone opened my eyes to how rough and dirty the ground can be. Walking barefoot around your house, on the beach, or on grass is one thing....walking over railroad tracks, through trash, animal waste, and feeling your feet blister and be ripped open from exposure to the jagged ground is another. Before owning a pair of TOMS I never thought about the impact lack of footwear can have on an individual, especially a child.
Shoes....I can't believe I didn't realize they were so important, but I think it's because I'm so used to our culture placing more value on style rather than function.
Why are shoes so important?
- Health-millions of children are at risk of injury, disease, and soil transmitted infection
- Education-In some areas, shoes are required for children to attend school
- Opportunity-Children who are healthy are more likely to be successful students
Shoes.....could you picture your child having to walk through the streets, down dirt roads, and through landfills without them? I did and it gave me a serious wake up call.
Once I came to recognize how important footwear is I saved up and bought a pair of TOMS so I could contribute to their "One for One," model. They were worth every penny and are far more comfortable than any other brand or type of shoe I've ever owned in my opinion. They aren't the most attractive looking pieces of footwear but going with out them today made me feel foolish for thinking what goes on my feet HAS to be fashionable. I mean cute shoes are nice to have...but are they really necessary? Today I quickly realized the answer (at least for me) is no...I'm just grateful to have something to cover these stubby toes of mine up so I don't lose a toe or contract an illness.
Shoes. Could you go a day (or more) without them?
After today's experience I don't think I'll take the fact that my family can afford and own them for granted like I did before. I also know I'll continue to look for tangible ways to help others, whether it's by donating old shoes of my own, or buying more TOMS so other children can have new ones.
Shoes....Bare feet...the ground...I don't think I'll look at any of these the same from this day forward....would you?
To learn more about TOMS and their annual "Day Without Shoes" worldwide event, please visit http://www.onedaywithoutshoes.com/ and http://www.toms.com/.
- Must Attend Event: TOMS One Day Without Shoes (marieclaire.com)
- One Day Without Shoes | www.onedaywithoutshoes.com (omniologicalworks.wordpress.com)
- One Day Without Shoes. Today! (flickr.net)