Shoe Party

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BootFeet come in all shapes and sizes. They can be delicate and attractive, and they can be large and well worn. Feet rarely get the attention they deserve, as they are used by almost every human, every day, taken for granted and abused. Feet have been the inspiration for many poems, images, and for the multi-billion dollar shoe industry throughout the years. Feet are the reason that entire professions exist, why Dr. Scholls will always remain so popular, and why “Crocs” have taken the world by storm. Feet can be ticklish, calloused, or arthritic, and they are the first to get dirty, and the last to get cleaned. Feet are very humble little body parts, and I never thought they would affect my perspective so much.NOT Christal's closetLike many people in the Western World, I am a fan of shoes. Well, maybe a fanatic would be a better description! Shoes in our minds often represent protection, a sports requirement, and ultimately,a necessity.  They are often the coveted fashion accessory, and many a cow, lamb, and alligator have been martyred for the cause. For those of us who can afford the luxury of purchasing shoes, we can see them as a well-deserved treat, a social must-have, or even a status symbol. Rarely are we ever asked to consider the significance of what we wear on our feet, as it honestly never really crosses our minds. (Image shown on right is not Christal’s Closet)It really did not cross mine either, until the day we pulled into one of my favourite villages in Dominican Republic, with a truckload of shoes that we had promised to bring. A simple promise, made possible by the donations of many thoughtful Hero Holiday participants, their friends, and their families, altered our perspective and challenged our limited concepts of equality.We had about 250 pairs of shoes with us. Most of them used, all of them cast offs, deemed unworthy of our closets anymore, as they had fallen out of fashion, or out of favour with their previous owners. Some were donations from stores in Canada that were unable to sell them. As we turned off the truck, I prepared the Hero Holiday participants for what the were about to experience. I warned them that it would get wild, and I reminded them of why we were doing this: because dignity starts with us and in how we choose to treat people where they are at.  And then…the fun began!We quickly organized the shoes into some kind of commonality of size and gender. As we began to allow people on the truck, four at a time, we helped them to size up their feet and see what they could get to fit.There were many different feet that stepped on the flat deck of that truck that day: some were small and already hardened and calloused from packed dirt, hot concrete, and thorny grass. Some were broken and twisted from arthritis. All of them were dirty.and all of them were bare when they came on the truck. This may be the only pair of shoes that they owned, and these shoes were a true gift. These were the feet of people who were stateless and despised, who  worked every day in a garbage dump, who scratched out an existence by going without and fighting for survival. These people had become our friends, and they were the reason we were here.  It was hot, humid, frantic and loud! As I looked across the sea of faces surrounding the flat deck of our truck, I saw familiar faces that I loved and cared about. There were smiles returned, but mostly there was just a lot of frantic callinCrowdg out of our names, in hopes of getting noticed and not being forgotten for the shoes. Mothers began to hand their babies over the crowd, asking us to take them, and a realization began to dawn on us regarding the importance of what we were doing. Not the self-importance that comes with feeling like you are doing something significant, but the importance of realizing that the simple sharing of these shoes, for some of these faces, represented a simple hope that they were not forgotten – that someone had seen their need and realized they held the means to help alleviate it.One little elderly lady came up to me as we were preparing to leave. She was carrying a new, but well worn pair of leather shoes, and she grabbed my arm and kissed my cheek. As she stepped back, she had tears in her eyes, and she pointed up to the sky and smiled a toothless smile at me. “Thank God that He provides” she said to me in Creole. I smiled and nodded my head. I looked around at the group of Canadian teenagers with me, and took in their smiles; they were smiles of feeling like you were a part of something, no matter how small according the the world’s standards, that somehow had made someone else’s life just a little more bearable. One girl with me came over to where I was standing, and with tears streaming down her face said, “I never dreamed I could be a part of something like this that we did today. This has been one of the most memorable days of my life. I will never see my shoes the same again.”I have to agree. When your life experience alters your perspective,you are never the same. And besides, there is nothing like making a memory in the tropical jungle with 250 of your friends…
group Hero Holiday BuildingThis year, our Hero Holiday participants will be returning to Dominican Republic to work with this community. We will be helping them to build a school for their children, and will continue to help them in areas such as clothing items, food supplies, and medical assistance. If you would like to be a part of what we are doing, please consider joining us on a Hero Holiday.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: February 15th, 2009