One Day Without Shoes: Why We Need to Put Our Best Bare Foot Forward
Can you imagine a life where going barefoot wasn’t an option, it was the only way?
While most of us are fortunate enough to have shoes to coordinate with almost every outfit — and stylish ones at that — for millions of children around the world, shoes are a bare necessity that is seldom granted. In developing countries, many children never own a pair of new shoes. They walk miles on mud, dirt and rocks to go to school, get water or seek medical attention, putting themselves at risk for preventable diseases and infections.
But American Blake Mycoskie is trying to change that. After witnessing this harsh reality first-hand on a biking expedition in Argentina, Mycoskie founded TOMS Shoes, which promises to give one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that’s purchased.
With more than 1 million shoes distributed to date, it’s safe to say that TOMS’ mission is on its way to being realized, yet there is still work to be done.
Today is TOMS annual event, “One Day Without Shoes,” an effort aimed at raising awareness for those who don’t have any choice but to go barefoot by asking us to go barefoot ourselves. Whether it be for one hour or the whole day, Mycoskie and the TOMS team are asking us to stand in someone else’s (lack of) shoes for a change.
From the Times article “Barefoot for a Cause: One Day Without Shoes”
WHY WE NEED TO PUT OUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
by A. Dawn
New York City today is a place where kids and teenagers will kill for a pair of shoes, literally. Not out of the necessity to have a pair of shoes on their feet, but to have a pair of Jordans. There are young women whose self worth is based on spending the equivalent of a month’s rent on a pair of high heels. There are constant references made to shoes as status symbols in hip hop songs and on popular TV shows. I myself am guilty of having way more pairs of black high heels than any one person should own. Just yesterday morning, I was walking through my neighborhood and noticed three pairs of hardly worn Nikes hanging off a power line and had the urge to hunt down the culprits and explain to them that there are kids in other countries, even this country and right here in this city, without shoes on their feet.
Imagine today then, how inspired I was to see this article. Although slightly disappointed I didn’t see it sooner so that I could have organized an event here in NYC, I clicked around www.onedaywithoutshoes.com hoping to find an event I could attend today. My disappointment deepened when I saw that there were a few things organized for NYC, but nothing seemed like it was gaining the attention it deserved. I strongly feel the need to support Mr. Mycoskie’s movement and undertake some outreach efforts here in New York City, so even though tomorrow won’t be April 5, a friend and I have decided to hit the NYC pavement, putting up signs and sidewalk chalk graffiti directing people to the website and the movement.
You see, it isn’t just about shoes. A kid in Ethiopia with no shoes isn’t just a problem for his parents or for social services in Ethiopia. Oh no. We humans are messy people, and our messes affect everyone around us in ways we don’t often realize.
Neuroscience research substantiates this, showing that having an accurate perception of reality isn’t one of our amazing brain’s stronger points. Indeed, the human brain seems to have a hard time differentiating between fantasies and facts. Surprisingly enough, when left to it’s own devices, our brain doesn’t even try to create a fully detailed construct of the external world, but instead just picks and chooses a handful of cues and fills the rest in according to fantasies, societal constructs, and beliefs.¹
So it’s no surprise that New Yorkers, and Americans in general, have largely chosen to stay in their proverbial closets (filled with shoes) about the importance of their roles as individuals in providing aid to the rest of the world. They don’t see how it relates to them, why they should be concerned, or feel that anything they could do is large enough or meaningful enough to make a difference.
America, you are sleeping on the American dream.
Is there any wonder that reality TV is immensely popular in this generation in America? Instead of connecting with the disconnection from reality, let’s look at some connections.
Bless the little bare feet of the kids in Ethiopia with no shoes, who may never set a bare foot on our American soil, but are still having an economic footprint on our American dollars. How?
In a blog for the Huffington Post, Blake Mycoskie explained “For hundreds of millions of children, shoes are a luxury that they simply cannot afford. In many developing countries, children walk barefoot for miles, risking injury, infection and exposure to soil-transmitted diseases. Many schools require shoes for attendance, giving children without them no opportunity to learn. And some soil-based diseases not only cause physical symptoms, but create cognitive impairment too, crippling a child’s long-term potential. I’ve seen this with my own eyes in Argentina, Ethiopia and South Africa, and TOMS’ giving partners experience this everyday in 20+ international countries.”
As Mycoskie explained, it’s much more serious than leaving a footprint in the sand. The consequences of not having a simple pair of shoes can end up in serious illness, the spread of communicable diseases requiring expensive medical intervention, destruction of live stock or crops used for international trading by introduction of soil-transmitted diseases, and lack of learning opportunities for children whose villages and countries are depending on them to bring progression and self sufficiency.
Yet the sad likelihood is, without help from people like Blake Mycoskie and you, these countries will remain reliant on foreign aid because the effects of the problem are more far reaching and debilitating than a pair of shoes.
However, the reality is- a pair of shoes is a lot cheaper.
Click here to learn more about One Day Without Shoes.
1. Newberg, Andrew, M.D. & Waldman, Mark R. (2010). How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings From a Leading Neuroscientist. New York: Ballatine Books.