Creating Social Value Blog / Service in Action

One Day Without Shoes Reflection

As my feet begin to thaw, there is only one word that describes my feelings right now. Excruciating. The cold is so bad that my feet are burning. Having grown up in Vermont, I have felt this before upon going skiing when it is below freezing, but never has it been my feet. It looks like they are being boiled right now, and the more they get accustomed to the warmth of my room the worse the pain is. They had gone numb, trying to reduce the pain of the snow. It came to a point where I couldn’t walk but rather had to throw my feet one after the other, taking deep breathes to give my brain something else to concentrate on. And I don’t like to be a wimp. I am one of those outdoorsy, proud Vermont kids that have no problem braving the elements.

I decided to go barefoot all day today, Wednesday November 7th, for a program I called One Day Without Shoes during Babson’s Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. Little did I know there would be a northeaster with two inches of snow and below freezing temperatures. I have been humbled. I went into this day excited for trying to take on the challenge, seeing if I could muster up the courage to make it an entire day without shoes. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard. My very first walk, going no farther than maybe 200 yards, proved to be arresting. I found that it was almost unbearable to walk on the pavement; it felt like I my bones were being grinded into the hard cement combined with a stinging sensation in my flesh. The grass was softer, yet still the cold made it painful. The day seemed impossible, I was already wondering if I could make it after spending a total of five minutes outside. Five minutes. And people go their entire lives. And I heard the argument throughout the day that most people living without shoes don’t have to deal with cold weather. Well all it takes is for one person in the entire world to be without shoes in a cold place and I think your point is null. I was humbled from the start.

When I first set foot in the snow, it was actually a welcome from the harsh pavement. However, the cold quickly worked its magic. Walking only 30 yards took five minutes inside to begin to feel normal again. People began to look at me like I was crazy. I was crazy, I admit that. My feet don’t look black though, so no frostbite. They didn’t let me into Trim, so I had to eat half a leftover sandwich for lunch. It made it all so clear that kids around the world can’t go to school because of not having shoes. How dare I complain about missing one meal. And I didn’t actually miss it. But it was when I had to make the hike from the Writing Center all the way back to my room in Forest that my feet literally went numb. It was like having clubs at the end of my feet. And this is probably half a mile, if that. Imagine going an entire day outside in this. Imagine going an entire winter like this. You would die, I am certain of it. The thing I take for granted, the simple act of tying my shoes each and every day and don’t even give a second to think of is what keeps me alive. You can’t even begin to appreciate the gifts of life until they are taken away, no matter how cliché that sounds. I am not going to say this experience changed my life, because I would say I already have a heart for reaching the meek and marginalized of the world. But it has helped me to connect with such basic suffering in an incredible way. We are so spoiled and privileged it takes drastic changes to get our attention. Pain is a relative thing. I have no reason to complain about anything right now, I am just thankful to be inside with a rug under my still exposed feet. Yet I still have no desire to do homework, I feel like a survivor and the last thing on my mind is mental stimulus. Just imagine how someone feels who is constantly shoeless. Or homeless. It is a daily chore of trying to survive. This takes every ounce of energy and focus. I will never forget this day, and I think I may do similar acts in the future to remind myself of just how lucky I am. And to continue to push myself to realize why I need to surrender myself in service to those that are not so fortunate. Going barefoot for one day when it is sunny and seventy degrees out is easy, and I don’t think it will impact you that greatly. So I am thankful that it snowed today, because I will never forget this day.

– Benjamin Pierce