“But, I don’t want to wear those shoes! Can I wear my pink ones or my tennis shoes?” The wail was familiar, and so was the response, “Just get something on your feet, now!”
A million shoes scattered in the closet (Yes, a slight exaggeration, but under stress, who cares?); too many choices. How often have you had needless exchanges in your home about which shoes to put on for school or church or play?
When I look in my closet, I realize these exchanges are not just about my children and grandchildren. I see dozens of shoes. Granted, I haven’t worn some for over a year; a pair or two are of a specific color or style for just the right outfit; still others simply don’t feel as comfortable as my well-worn everyday favorites. And besides, I can justify it, “My feet aren’t growing anymore!” Flip flops, dress sandals, hiking books, canvas, leather, and slippers.
How did this concern come to light? While researching charities with my students, I came across an interesting project: The Shoe That Grows. The “shoe” is the first innovation taken on by an intriguing organization, Because International. My interest was piqued when I read,
“Because International believes in PRACTICAL COMPASSION. We want to listen to make their daily lives better.
And then we help turn those ideas into a reality. Basically, we try to make things better by making better things.”
I dug deeper. I googled and followed internet threads. Liking what I saw, but wanting to be sure, I sent an email and quickly received a return phone call from the founder and executive director, Kenton Lee.
There’s something about the way God wired all of us. For me, it seems I become passionate about specific causes. In elementary school, I eagerly divided small change from chores and birthday money into three self-decorated containers: tithe, missions, me. I enjoyed watching them slowly fill. I loved knowing I would have my very own gifts to donate for the Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong offerings at my church. By high school, I sewed clothing, and with the help of my parents, personally delivered gifts for my “adopted” friend at the Missouri Baptist Children’s home in Bridgeton, MO. Since then the charity opportunities have become more complex and exciting: ongoing World Vision sponsorships and multiple timely causes. For each effort, the passion runs deep. I pray. I research. I pray some more. In time, I know what to do.
I quickly recognized the old familiar tug as I spoke with Kenton. I was hooked. What drew me? My research revealed Because International’s real-life innovative process: see a need, talk to the people in need, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and create a product to solve a real problem. The first project for Because International was The Shoe That Grows. Lee and his team saw a need. Children around the world, especially in Third World countries, need shoes. Lee began to design a shoe that would expand as a child grows. After several unsuccessful attempts, his team turned to a shoe development team, Proof of Concept. The Shoe That Grows became a reality.
“How can I help, Kenton? Count me in!” I was thrilled to discover a practical way: Wear A Pair in April. “Please include my granddaughter and me.” I wondered if this real-life learning experience was possible for my students. Within days, I checked with my principal and designed a lesson plan.
The next day I opened class with a simple direction: “If your parents said, ‘Put something on your feet, how many possibilities do you have?’ Count everything that fits – whether you like them or not.” I listed all the answers in a column: 11, 4, 7, 6, 8, 3, etc. When the list was complete, students calculated the average number of shoes for one child. (We had about 7 pairs per child.)
I continued, “Now, think. How many children are in your home? How many shoes are in your house? What happens when you outgrow a pair or decide you simply don’t like them any longer? What if your new ball team has different colors? The Smart Board came in handy as we watched Kenton Lee’s CBS interview on YouTube. I asked, “Can you imagine not having a pair of shoes? Can you imagine finally getting a pair only to outgrow them? Would you be willing to cut out the toes of your shoes to continue wearing them longer?” Since our class of gifted students involves research, children checked out medical sites about the problems of going barefoot: disease, transmission of parasites, fungus, and wounds which won’t heal – to name a few. I proposed that the children could do something if they wished. With parent permission, they could participate in the “Wear a Pair in April” campaign and tell people the story. One student asked, “Could we also fill a duffle?” So we agreed to try. Our main goal is to tell the story of The Shoe That Grows. Our secondary goal is to “Fill a Duffle.”
Perhaps when people hear about our research, they will want to donate the funds needed to give 50 pairs of shoes to children in need. We agreed to set up a booth at our Business Fair in April. Isn’t life all about learning and applying lessons? In my class, we’ll focus on doing research to learn, but in real-life we become part of the research by experience. Hopefully, my elementary students will experience a life lesson which carries on for years to come.
Learn more about my efforts with The Shoe That Grows, our classroom year-long business unit, or projects in upcoming features. Feel free to contact me.