My second earliest memory, the first being the night my sisters were born, is restlessly roaming the aisles of a shoe store bored out of my five-year-old mind while my parents tried to fit the aforementioned sisters with appropriate winter footwear. Finally, Dad told me sit down.
“But what am I supposed to do?” I whined.
“I don’t know. Twiddle your thumbs!” he replied.
He lost his stern dad demeanor when I sat down on the red vinyl bench in the children’s shoe department and while swinging my feet, began twiddling my tiny thumbs. He’d underestimated the value of a Sesame Street education.
Eighteen years later I walked into a bridal shop, pointed to a pair of white satin kitten-heel boots and said, “I’ll take those! Now let’s find a dress to go with them.”
Shoes are closely tied in my mind to endless memories. I remember the pointy-toed cowboy boots a family friend bought me in Nebraska. Little did he now the culturally unique footwear would nearly get me beaten up in my Norfolk, Virginia elementary school. By high school I was living in the Wyoming/Nebraska Panhandle populated with generations of my family. There, I fit in with popular 1980s footwear such as the light blue jellies I wore with dresses to church and the white, untied high top tennis shoes I wore with jeans to school. I still have the first thing my mother-in-law ever bought me – an oyster colored pair of Justin lace up ropers. Twenty-eight years later I still pull then on for rodeos and state fair. I had the leather loafers my daughter made me get rid of when she was in high school and deeply concerned with my cool factor, but I still have her favorite gold glitter shoes she wore nearly every day of her third year of life.
During a recent Strategic Partners’ Conference of Horizon International, Inc. I poured over the prayer requests from our African partners. I was struck by a request from Tamrat and Mulu, project managers of Life Center in Addis Ababa and Sekota, Ethiopia. They are requesting $5,750 U.S. dollars for shoes for orphans they serve through Life Center. They are praying for the opportunity to purchase school shoes and everyday shoes for these kids. As I wrote out my prayer for the work of Life Center I penned, “God, it seems so strange to pray for shoes.”
I have never needed a pair of shoes. However, I have frequently wanted shoes, and usually gotten them. In fact, the day before I attended the conference, I had taken a photo of a new pair of moss green shoe boots, posted it on Facebook and told my fellow fashionistas how excited I was to break in my new boots at the conference. I have never prayed for a pair of shoes, never been restricted from attending school for lack of proper footwear, never cried at night over cut, bruised feet, lost toenails, or broken toes.
Florence from Uganda has. During the conference she shared the memory of receiving her first pair of shoes when she was 11 years old! The shoes where hand-me-downs from another orphan. Florence’s husband Herbert shared the memory of a young Ugandan boy receiving his first pair of shoes and going to bed that night with the shoes wrapped up in a blanket and tucked under his arm.
The soles of shoes protect the soles of our feet and keep them warm and safeguarded from stones, glass, burs, and other flesh damaging objects. Proper shoes prepare us for the environment and purpose – hiking boots, running shoes, dance shoes, even shower shoes! But shoes also touch our souls. They bring us happy memories and help us feel stylish, well-dressed, and well-cared for. For Florence and others who pray for shoes, finally having their prayers answered assures them God is listening.
I have the opportunity to visit Life Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia October 31, 2018 along withHorizon CEO Bob Pearson, a fellow Horizon board member, and four other committed supporters of Horizon and orphan care. While there we will meet some of the barefoot children praying for shoes to protect their soles and allow them school attendance. With your help, I would like to also touch their souls with the promise of the funds they need to purchase these shoes.