Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shoeless and crazy in America.

Yesterday was One Day without Shoes, a TOMS company creation to bring awareness to children all over the world that do not have shoes, and all the health and safety hazards they face each day on bare feet.  You can learn more about this important day at

My girls were all up for it yesterday so I agreed to let them go to school shoeless, bringing their shoes in the backpack with them.  I was proud of them for looking outside themselves to focus on others in need.  Overall their experiences were good...although Thunder Ridge was very resistant to barefoot students.  I understand the health code issues- I honestly do.  I told the girls to be respectful to teachers and administrators, and put their shoes back on if asked.  Surprisingly, Ainsley fared the best at her elementary school, able to keep her shoes off most of the school day and share the "One Day Without Shoes" message with many.  

But let's face it...going shoeless for one day is a smallish thing.

Or is it?

I decided to go shoeless too yesterday...wanting my girls to see they do not give or sacrifice alone...this is a family and we do things together.  I didn't ask Ron to be involved simply because he has been swamped and stressed at work.  Doubt he could do field tests without his boots either.  I digress.  I was barefoot most of yesterday and learned a lot. Sadly my observations were not as  focused on barefoot children as they were on myself and our society. 

Observation 1- No one notices what is on your feet until there is nothing on your feet.  Then every person on the planet notices your feet.

Observation 2- Apparently only mad crazy mentally unstable people walk around barefoot in America in public.  At least that is how everyone reacted to me.

I was completely unprepared for how prideful I really am.   Ouch.

But let's do a quick poll- Raise your hand if you would head to the grocery store right now without shoes on?  Completely barefoot. Would you?   Some of you might be up for it, but I know others are saying Are you insane? 

I started out small early in the day...taking a forgotten lunch box to Ains at her school.  Okay, not a big deal- Walk into the building, transverse the three steps to the attendance desk and state my request.  The attendance office is a big window so no one can see my feet anyway.  When I got out of the van and put my left foot down on the pavement I actually felt the uneven pebbly.  I made it to the door, pep talking myself along the way, really trying to be light carefree.  Or dedicated purposeful. 

But honestly

I felt naked.  Who knew missing shoes could make one feel like they'd left their pants at home?

Things didn't go quite as planned inside the school.  The office called for Ains to come down to get her lunchbox so I had to wait in the chairs...the ones positioned just far enough from the attendance window for one's feet to be in full view of whomever might be in the office.

I tried fiddling, reading things on the wall...I left my phone in the car...curses Why did I do that??? couldn't even aimlessly browse Facebook or figure out better ways at losing on Words with Friends.  I was tempted to walk over to the Music Room door and stare at the orchestra sign-up posters but that would involve walking...drawing attention to my bare I stayed put.  The principal came out of her office and scowled at my feet.  Or maybe that was my overactive imagination.

Four hours later when Ainsley showed up to collect her lunch box...or it could have been four minutes...I had broken out in a sweat.

I hugged her and hightailed it out of there.

Now I know what you are thinking right now because I was too.

If this was such a stressful experience for me then why in the world was I doing it?  And what exactly is the big deal with walking around barefoot?

Well I generally like to fit in not stand out. As a writer and a female, I want my personality to be what shines more than anything else.

Having bare feet be the reason I'm standing out?? 


That's just me. 

As for my second question above...what's the big deal?  If you are asking that one you have clearly never gone into public barefoot.  I refer back to my poll.   

After arguing with myself and my stupid pride for five minutes sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot I got out slammed the door and walked into the store.

With my shoes on.  Feeling like a loser quitter. Are you disappointed in me too?  Yes that is acceptable.

But then something interesting happened...

My boldness grew and my fears lessened with each step, and back in the milk section I ripped those flip flops off my feet and stuffed them in my bag.  I felt free.  I felt good.  I felt...

Naked again.

But I was determined this time.  I was gonna talk to people...I am good at that...and tell them about the important reason I was barefoot.

What I wasn't prepared for were the looks people gave me.

Fear pity anger disgust.  Like I was absolutely bat dung crazy.  Every single person I passed on that unusually busy Tuesday morning noticed my feet.  And all of them almost ran from me.

I was prepared to be approached by an employee or manager asking me to put on shoes.  That didn't actually happen. 

But I wasn't prepared to be the crazy woman.

I didn't dialogue with anyone except for the cashier and she basically told me I was stupid for not wearing shoes in public, regardless of the cause.

Such a...

crappy experience.  Just honest.

I learned I am more prideful than I realized.  Sometimes it is important to stand out make waves be the different one.  I fear that.

I also learned how much society views those differences as negative scary unapproachable.

Further I learned going barefoot is truly frightening from a health perspective...what in the world was I stepping on?  In this country we have fairly sanitary surfaces that we encounter each day.  I couldn't fathom being a child and having to walk barefoot over rocks dirt glass rotting sewage...horrific.

Bottom line- Days like yesterday help all sheltered me to sincerely grasp what others around the world face on a daily basis.  In a way I can't conjure in my mind unless I actually take my shoes off.

The takeaway- It was uncomfortable.  I am glad it was.  I wish I would have been bolder.  I am glad I did it. And I am so incredibly proud of my three girls.

Next year we will make and wear t-shirts too.   


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