Today was a cold rainy day in Millersville, a big change from the beautiful weather that we had yesterday. Girls across campus were decked out in their wellies, guys were in waterproof hiking boots and work boots hoping to keep the rain out. I was shoeless.
Today was the annual Tom’s Day Without Shoes, a day when the for profit shoemaker Tom’s encourages customers to spread the word about their brand by being like the people they help in their charity work. I already have strong feelings about this slacktivist trend but this year is decided to participate. I’m doing this not because I want to be trendy or I think myself an activist, fighting for the underprivileged of the world. I decided to do it because i wanted to understand a little better what it’s like for those people who go without shoes on a daily basis. Walking a mile without their shoes in a way.
The weather was not ideal for this experiment. When I left my house at 10:30 it was raining and cold, about 45*. Needless to say that as I stepped out my door, my feet were already cold. I took the few steps out to my car and I could already feel the cold wet asphalt sink into my feet, digging at the un-calloused soles. My car offered a reprieve once it heated up and I felt semi-normal again. On the drive I thought about packing it in already (I had my Tom’s with me just in case I was asked to wear shoes at any point during the day) but I said to myself “If these kids don’t have a choice, neither should I.”
The walk to class was even worse. Gravel and twigs littered the ground so I had to be careful where I stepped so as not to injure myself. I walked at as reasonable a speed as I could muster. Between the temperature, the pain, and the caution it was not fast as I would have wished.
I sat down in my first class looking at the feet of those around me. Everyone was in shoes of some kind. Last year at this time there was a much higher rate of participation. The weather was nice so it was easy for everyone to handle. Today was not the case.
I carried on with my day. Went to the hospital for x-rays where only one person noticed my bare feet. She asked me why I wasn’t wearing shoes and I told her just that it was Day Without Shoes and it was an activism effort. She didn’t ask me to put any on so I didn’t worry about it.
It was liberating in a way to walk around the buildings shoeless. It’s hard to describe, it just felt so good and right.
I went back to campus for my night class. The weather had changed drastically. The sun was out, it was a lot warmer with a slight breeze in the air. I figured that I would see a one or two people without shoes in my class. Nope. The more comfortable weather did not make anyone ditch their shoes in their dorm room or car. Maybe people forgot, maybe they felt that they shouldn’t finish off the day if they hadn’t started it. Either way I was still alone in my shoelessness.
When it came down to it I came to a couple of conclusions:
- A lot of people make their slacktivism efforts based on comfort. It’s easy to not do something if it will make you uncomfortable, we all know this. It’s a shame that more people didn’t make an effort to do this based solely on the weather.
- The kids without shoes don’t have a choice and if you want to support them, you shouldn’t either
I don’t think of myself as a better person for doing this and I don’t look down on those who didn’t participate for whatever reason. I did this today to gain some perspective on the cause that Tom’s shoes is trying to promote. I know that when I wake up tomorrow I will feel a little more fortunate for living the life that I do in the place I am and I will feel more fortunate that I have shoes to wear when I step outside my door.