A Sole-Soul Awareness Event

One Day Without Shoes had its 4th annual event yesterday. This is the first time I had heard of it, courtesy of a friend who posted the video link on her Facebook page. The purpose is to raise awareness for those world citizens who do not have the choice of wearing shoes due to poverty. Many of these people are children in 3rd world countries who are not only prone to contracting diseases and infections, but are also denied the chance of an education because in some areas, shoes are required to attend school. The event is sponsored by TOMS shoes, a company founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie after he befriended children in Argentina who were, of course, shoeless. On his return, he started TOMS with the simple premise of “One for One.” Buy a pair of shoes, and the company will donate a pair of shoes. You can learn more about the company (and its shoes) at their website.

I work from home so it is quite easy for me to go without shoes for a day – especially on a day that I did not have to be anywhere or run any errands. I did go get the mail and went without my house slippers, which made for some chilly toes, but what good was that going to do? Bob had to go to the mall to have his lens re-cut and fitted into his frames, so I thought I’d try to tag along with him. He wasn’t impressed with the plan, likening it in some ways to mere lip service. After all, echoing my initial thought, what good would it do to just go barefoot? The likely scenario would be that I’d get some funny looks, but not spread any real awareness to the issue – and not actually creating any real change. Ouch. He certainly plays a good devil’s advocate to my Pollyanna. 🙂

At first, I was defensive. After all, this cause somehow resonated with me and I wanted to protect and defend the purpose behind my decision to go without shoes. After a discussion of our differing points of view, Bob left for the mall, and I continued to work and then to start dinner. As I sauteed the onion and garlic and browned the beef for lasagna, I went over the conversation in my mind and thought about my emotional attachment to the idea of showing this small corner of the world that I, Elizabeth, was choosing to go without shoes for the day. My intentions were not born of arrogance, but in a culture where it is growing too easy to just copy and paste a status message to one’s wall or slap a magnet on one’s car, perhaps the act of going barefoot can be seen as nothing more than a fad or a whim instead of an attempt to draw attention and support to a cause. Please don’t think I’m denigrating these acts of awareness. Getting the word out for any cause is of the utmost importance and anything that invites a conversation is an excellent starting point. Indeed, I am one of those who copies and pastes awareness messages to my status.

With further sole-searching (haha), I realized that this wasn’t about shoes or going barefoot, it was about “the doing.” The chord that resonated wasn’t going barefoot in an effort to shoe the world, it was that Mr Mycoskie recognized a real need and then DID something about it. The real kicker is the knowledge that I have always limited myself on what I thought I could contribute to the world, even though I have long had a desire to do more than my charitable donations and status updates. After all, I’m no entrepreneur, I don’t usually buy lottery tickets, and I don’t have a college degree. I know on an intellectual level that none of that matters, and I have always admired those who step up to the plate and do what needs to be done, no matter what their life story happens to be. Despite this, I’m usually the one on the sidelines, not doing anything.

I guess the first step to resolving an issue is recognizing that it exists, and my day without shoes, even if it wasn’t out in public, did start a conversation that has led me here. Where this knowledge will take me, I have yet to find out, but I hope I learn to leave the sidelines and get into the game more fully. My short-term aim is to try to focus on the things that I can do and to rewrite the story in my head telling me I can’t. Perhaps next year I can help promote a One Day Without Shoes event here in my new town. The more bare feet in public, the more conversations. It’s a start. 🙂

PS – And rather than solely encouraging one to buy a pair of shoes from TOMS, there are other organizations shoeing the world such as soles4souls, who take in gently used or new shoe donations. You can check out their site here. There may be a drop box near you.

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