One of the things that consumed my thoughts the most while I was in Africa was the need for shoes.
I have never not had shoes.
I don't even know that I know anyone personally who has ever gone without shoes because they didn't have any other option.
Even my two-year-old has more shoes than she can possibly wear enough to make them all worth having before she outgrows them.
But in Africa, you see lots of little bare feet.
And it made my heart hurt.
Shoes are just one of the many things I so take for granted.
I have many pairs of shoes, some of which are seasonal or for a special occasion.
Here in America we don't think twice about buying a pair of shoes simply because
they are on sale or match that one outfit in our closet or because they are oh so cute.
And most of us never think about the little ones around the world who are doing without.
While I was in Uganda, I was just in awe of the things the children there often do without.
And while there is a happy median between all the things we have and don't need and they things they do without and do need, to me, shoes are a NEED, not a want, at least in the 'one pair to protect your feet' sense.
I mean, seriously, have you ever REALLY thought about the importance of having good shoes to protect your feet? You may have, but you probably have not. Shoes are such a given in our culture that we tend to overlook their importance.
I think I was just as humbled in that often times when I did see children wearing shoes, they often didn't seem to fit correctly or were worn past the point of truly being functional any more.
And yet they seemed so proud to have any shoes at all.
There are lots of holes and tatters on shoes in Africa.
But the image that stuck with me more clearly and that made the biggest impact on me was the girl in the jazz shoes.
There's no telling where she got them or where they originally came from.
I can just see one of my girls cleaning out her closet and donating them, thinking that another little girl somewhere will have fun dancing in them or playing dress up. But I don't think my girls would ever imagine that another little girl somewhere would covet them because they are either the only pair or at least the nicest pair of shoes she has.
If you know anything about jazz shoes, then you know they offer absolutely no support whatsoever. Their primary purpose in dance is to keep you from slipping and offer some grip. They don't have a real sole. Your little feet are no better off than if you'd stepped out in socks that day.
And yet, here she is...at school....in her uniform and her jazz shoes.
This was one of the most humbling sites I'd ever seen.
Her little image is burned in my mind as a symbol for the need to be thankful for all that I have and all that I have never had to do without.
I truly see shoes differently now than I did before going to Africa thanks primarily to the girl in the jazz shoes.
I am not proposing that you never donate your jazz shoes or asking you to give up the beauties in your closet; I am simply asking if you have ever taken time to truly stop and think about all that you have.
Some times all it takes to alter our perspective, after all, is a pair of jazz shoes.
*If you'd like to find out more that you can do to help put shoes on little feet in Africa, Sole Hope is a great organization that works to do just that and offers aid to those suffering from medical issues due to a lack of shoes. They are doing great things, and you can help. They in no way supported this post. Heck, they don't even know I'm writing it. But I love what they are doing, and I think you might too.....*