On Tuesday, April 5, I committed to going a full 24 hours barefoot to support the efforts of TOMS Shoes in raising awareness of individuals all over the world who can’t own shoes. We often take our feet for granted because we live in a society that can afford shoes and require them in most places for health and safety reasons. I first found out about TOMS’ global event called One Day Without Shoes in high school and felt inspired and encouraged by the event. From my recent research of the TOMS internship programs, I read stories, watched videos, and visited their Web site to learn more about why they do what they do. I wanted to try challenging Goshen College to join me in this day of going barefoot to help us understand the challenges of individuals without shoes on a daily basis around the world.

To clarify, this event was not organized just because of my application to the internship program. I firmly believe that I would have gone one day without my shoes regardless of that. I’ve known about TOMS for a few years and have participated in this event before, so I wanted to continue my participation to advocate for the program. I am extremely grateful for the experience and all those who helped make the day a success on Goshen’s campus.

For those who don’t know about TOMS, the company manufactures shoes in all sorts of funky styles, colors, and designs and is based in California. While the shoes might seem a little costly for most college students, it is all for a great cause: with every pair that is purchased, an additional pair is made and given away to a child in need. Additionally, TOMS works with various Giving Partners and philanthropic groups all over the world to conduct “shoe drops,” where they travel to various countries and help place the shoes on children’s feet themselves. The company began in 2006 with an idea sparked by Blake Mycoskie, who felt called to help children in Argentina who he got to meet and work with while traveling there. Now, TOMS has given away over one million pairs of shoes globally since then.

My day began around 8:30 a.m. After showering and getting dressed, I noticed that I had accidentally cut my ankle with my razor while shaving my legs. As much as I wanted to put a band-aid over it, this was my first realization of what people might experience everyday while being barefoot: scrapes, wounds, even diseases that can be passed by the soles of feet. I walked to class in the 30-some degree weather, finding it difficult to travel comfortably on freezing cement and train tracks. Throughout the morning, I got some weird looks from people but excitedly saw many others also without shoes, which definitely made me confident in participating in this event. I will admit that I wore shoes while I was in the dining hall, but I warned everybody who also went barefoot that it might be better to do that for safety reasons.

As the day progressed, the temperatures got warmer, but my feet were beginning to feel the effects of going without shoes. The bottoms were dirty and slightly red from irritation of the pavement. I went on a short walk with a friend and taught one of my beginner piano students, who was very curious about why I wasn’t wearing shoes.

“Why are you barefoot?” she asked.

“Well, I’m going one whole day without shoes to help spread awareness about people all over the world who never wear them,” I replied.

“Whoa! That would be so COOL to never wear shoes!” she said, excitedly.

“Yeah,” I said. “But what if you had to walk barefoot in all types of weather, or in gravel walkways?”

“Hm…” she thought. “Well that wouldn’t be so fun.”

It was simple, short conversations like this that I had throughout the day that helped me appreciate my shoes. I knew it would be a day of interesting encounters and challenges, but I’m very happy I participated. I got a new sense of gratitude for something that I know I take for granted all the time. Hopefully we can have even more people participate next year!

I encourage all of you to reflect on your own life and what you value as a global citizen of Goshen College. TOMS began with one man’s desire to simply give back to those in need. If you have a dream to impact the world, try not to dismiss it too quickly. You never know what kind of effect you might create.

For more information, visit www.toms.com/our-movement.