Here in the United States, walking in bare feet is not a common practice. However, in other parts of the world, where shoes are a luxury, walking without shoes is a way of life.
Children in developing countries grow up barefooted. But walking in bare feet can cause cuts and sores, which lead to serious infections and soil-transmitted diseases. For example, in Ethiopia, approximately 1 million people suffer from podoconiosis, a disease that is caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil. Not only is it painful, it disfigures the feet.
Podoconiosis is also preventable with basic foot hygiene, including wearing shoes.
On April 8, one week after Holy Thursday, a campaign to raise awareness about the impact shoes can have on a child’s life will take place around the country. Called “One Day Without Shoes,” the initiative is the brainchild of Blake Mycoskie, entrepreneur and founder of TOMS, a shoe company that donates one pair of shoes to a needy child for each pair it sells.
During One Day Without Shoes, people (especially high school and college students) will go the day or part of the day barefoot “to experience a life without shoes first-hand and inspire others at the same time,” according to the campaign’s Web site.
Mycoskie, a Texas native, started TOMS in 2006 after traveling to Argentina with his sister while competing on the CBS reality show, “The Amazing Race.”
“On my visit, I saw lots of kids with no shoes who were suffering from injuries to their feet,” he said in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. A year later, after starting the company, Blake returned to Argentina with 10,000 pairs of shoes for children. TOMS stands for TOMorrow’s shoes. Its slogan is “buy a pair today, give a pair tomorrow.”
Since its inception in May 2006, TOMS has donated more than 400,000 pairs of shoes to children around the world. This is the third annual One Day Without Shoes event, and it continues to grow in popularity.
The campaign’s observance so close to Holy Thursday may have been unintended, but it is fitting. At the Last Supper, as Jesus finishes washing his disciples’ feet, he tells them: “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do. I solemnly assure you, no slave is greater than his master; no messenger outranks the one who sent him. Once you know all these things, blest will you be if you put them into practice” (Jn 13:15-17).
This act of humility helps us to understand that we are all equal in God’s eyes. Therefore, we are called to serve each other. One Day Without Shoes puts this mandate into practice in a creative way.
To learn more about the initiative go to the One Day Without Shoes Web site.