Monday, June 08, 2009

A Day of no footwear shows plight of shoeless people

Here is an article written by Carla Hinton of the NewsOK, the daily newspaper serving Oklahoma City. Carla was brave enough to go barefoot for a day during Barefoot Week. Here is her story:

There are some folks who can’t wait to go barefoot.

They come home from a hard day at work, slip off their shoes and let their feet enjoy some freedom.

Others like walking along the beach, the sand crunching underneath their toes, warm sunshine leaving their feet with a pleasant tingling.

I am not one of those people.

So when the charity Soles4Souls issued a challenge to the media to go barefoot, I immediately jumped at the chance to do something different.

I knew it would be a challenge for me in more ways than one because I just don’t like walking around in my bare feet. I have probably spent a mint on socks over the years. My kids, whose feet are larger than mine, hide their socks from me.

No one’s socks are sacred.

By going barefoot Tuesday, I joined several celebrities and others who participated in Soles4Souls’ second annual Barefoot Week.

Soles4Souls is a nonproft organization trying to put pairs of shoes on the feet of the shoeless across the country and the world.

Wayne Esley, the organization’s CEO and founder, said he wanted Barefoot Week to be about experience, more than awareness.

"Everybody can get plugged in. I want you to be able to experience it,” he said during a telephone interview.

The highlights of my barefoot day were riding in the elevator with people who were trying their best not to get caught staring at my feet.

I smiled and started to give an explanation, but the elevator ride just went too quickly and folks seemed in a hurry.

Maybe I was paranoid, but it’s not every day that you see anyone walking around barefoot in our office building.

It rained that day, so I got to experience walking on wet pavement and grass. That was just plain nasty.

An hour later, the rain had stopped (ahh, that Oklahoma weather) and I remembered how hot concrete can be when the sun is beaming on it.

I had to watch for broken glass and other objects as I walked in parking lots. There are a lot of unusually shaped — and hard — rocks out there. I know because I walked on lots of them.

Picking my daughter up from a local gym, I heard a little boy whisper to his mother, "She doesn’t have on any shoes,” as they passed me on the sidewalk.

I felt the heat of shame wash over me. Then I remembered that I had plenty of shoes to wear at home. I thought about all the people whose lack of a decent pair of shoes is not by choice.

Esley said he hopes that going barefoot will encourage some people to be more empathetic to those who are shoeless because they don’t have the resources to get any. He wants people to clean out their closets and donate their "gently worn” shoes or even buy a new pair to donate to Soles4Souls.

The shoe donations can be taken to Finish Line athletic retail stores for a $5 coupon for a new pair of shoes for the donor.

As part of the special week, Soles4Souls worked to distribute 50,000 pairs of new shoes to local nonprofits such as homeless shelters, missions and children’s service organizations in Indianapolis; Atlanta; Birmingham, AL; and Portland, OR. A midnight giveaway is one of two planned events today in Los Angeles.

Esley said Soles4Souls estimates that there are 1.5 billion shoes that no one wears sitting in America’s closets.

"I bet Carla has a pair of shoes like that in her closet,” Esley said.

Yes, indeed.

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