Monday, January 26, 2009

June 2006 Essay

I wrote this essay when I was flying home from Denmark/Sweden in 2006. I have never shown it finished to anyone. Until now.
The tennis shoes I am wearing to travel to Scandinavia are not comfortable. They never have been. They pinch the top of my feet to the point of a numbing sensation and the bottom insoles feel like they have been broken in by someone else. My chiropractor/spiritual medium woman would be very disappointed in my footwear choice. I have worn bowling shoes more comfortable then these stinkin’ shoes I have owned forever.

You would think I would have bought a new pair for this trip since I am so good at buying shoes. 787 pairs to date, in fact, in two years. That is a lot of shoes…1,574 for those mathematicians I know. Honestly, that tends to take up a lot of space in our sub-basement (Midwest term for “tornado shelter”). They are stored with a mountain of Star Wars figures, a year’s supply of food, last year’s swimming gear, and 120,000 baseball cards. Fortunately for us, the shoes were already delivered when the last tornado hit. That is a good thing because we required a little extra room. When you believe you might be blown away at any moment, my eight year old son is of the opinion that his basket of dirty laundry should hide with us. So, as you can see, we needed the space.

There are two reasons I didn’t keep a single one of those hundreds of pairs of shoes. First, they weren’t for me, so they weren’t my size. They were for 787 children, orphans to be exact, that I will never meet.

Secondly, these pinchy shoes have their own story to tell. Hummm, shoes with a story. Imagine if our shoes could talk—what would they say? Mine have been around so long that they have seen a thing or two. Their greatest adventures include carrying the Olympic Torch, climbing the Great Wall of China, and repainting Tom’s entire new “man pad” (and they have the paint spatters to prove it). They have walked Tivoli Square in Denmark, gone to a family reunion in the middle of nowhere Montana, and served as the PTA president. They have done countless hours of yard work, seen many things on school field trips, and attended several leadership academies. They have walked the dog, and ridden a roller coaster until I am sick. And they have been present when some of those 787 pairs of shoes have been brought home to wait for their time with the orphan kids.

As pinchy as these shoes are, they are family to me. We have shared memories, these shoes and I. It would feel wrong to leave them this trip, given their opportunity to take a walk around Hamlet’s Castle or stroll along a Swedish beach. I couldn’t leave them home. It would feel like it does when the dog watches us drive out of the driveway from his perch in the front window. As much as I dislike these shoes, I couldn’t leave them home. I couldn’t bear it.

One orphan shoe buying experience will always stick with me. As I checked out of a very rural, small town discount department store with a big pile of footwear there was a clerk that gave me some serious attitude. “What are these for?” she snidely asked. “These shoes are for orphans” I replied. Most times, that answer would satisfy the person’s curiosity. Not this lady. Then she said something that I will never forget. “Are you buying these shoes because it’s your job or because it is your heart?” It is a comment I will never forget.

I have thought over time that life seems to be divided by that we give away and that we gather. It is the giving away that is my favorite part.

Maybe that is why I have worked so hard these past years on the orphans’ shoes project. I want those children to have the opportunity to build their own memories with their own shoes. Even if their shoes pinch a little. :)