Posted by michelle on Sunday, February 13, 2011 / Labels: poverty
I was walking down the street in Chicago, a late 20 something man and woman walked out of an office building. Obviously just off work. She had on a boring tan business suit and then you look down and see these very cool slip on tennis shoes with a fun print. I am in awe. Just by a quick glance at her feet, I think she is cool. I would want to be her friend….well you know if she wasn't just some random girl on the street. And then I had dinner and forgot about her.
The next morning I was strolling down Michigan avenue and see those same amazing shoes in the window at Payless. Yes, Payless. The magnificent mile in Chicago is known for its exclusive shopping with places like Hermes, Cartier and Tiffany – and I want something form Payless. I quickly go in, find them in my size and slip them on and walk out of the store wearing them. Suddenly I have this moment where I think my new 17$ shoes are my destiny. That they will make me as cool as the girl in the beige suit and they will give me purpose. The purpose is about the dozen bums that I passed on my way here. All with Starbucks cups out jingling wanting my change. Sometimes I gave it to them, but mostly I walked past. Chicago is cold, even in May I held my jackets tight. If I was going to be homeless I would choose a place like San Francisco – not cold windy Chicago. So I decide to give away my slightly used, but still very cute Nikes. I tie the laces together and sling them over my shoulder and tell my companions be on the lookout for a homeless women in about a size 9. I feel very benevlolent. Good and warm inside because I am going to give away my old used sneakers.
We have a boat tour booked and I was slightly disappointed that there was no woman talking to herself on the stairwell down to the river that I had seen earlier. She would have made a perfect recipient of my shoes. The grey would have matched her holey sweatshirt. On the boat I did slip them inside my backpack instead of carrying them on shoulder, but was still confident that I would find someone to give them to on the way back to the hotel. I counted 4 men with very large feet and jingling starbucks cups on the way back. The tennis shoes were getting heavy to lug around and I was anxious to give them away already. The warm fuzzy feeling was starting to fade and my back was starting to ache.
The next day, I left the cool shoes at the motel and wore my old ones. This did complicate my plan to give them away….but I was thankful to wear shoes with arch support after biking 10 miles and walking at least half that many. But I was not going to leave this city without giving away my shoes. Someone needed them. I was suppsed to give them away I just knew it. Plus, I wasn't sure I could fit them in my suitcase. Monday morning before my flight I was out walking near the hotel and was ready to hand them off, even go barefoot for a block or two if the opportunity arised. That might even be better. It would look really generous to take the shoes off my feet, rather than pull a used pair out of my backpack. Keep in mind when I say it would "look" more or generous I am not talking about a crowd or anyone to impress. I was thinking about God I suppose. I even distinctly remember asking God to put someone in my path. Someone who wore a size 9. I prayed all the way to the train to O'Hare.
Needless to say I didn't run into any more women in need of shoes. Plenty of people needed cash, a cup of coffee, a hot dog or maybe even a beer – but I wasn't willing to part with more than a few quarters here and there. I wanted to give away my shoes because it was convenient. It was easy. There was something in it for me. I had another pair waiting at the hotel and a whole closetfull at home. I never considered giving away my jacket or anything else I would miss. Just those stupid shoes. I was trying to lighten my own load and get a cheap warm fuzzy look how great I am moment out of it.
Apparently, God figured I needed humility a lot more than a homeless woman needed some Nikes.