Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All Wrapped Up With A Bow

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."             --Winston Churchill

 It's strange how it happens...how literally one day you feel the hopelessness, the frustration and the undeniable truth -- it's just never going to happen.  You can insert whatever blank you want to in there...it's never going to happen that I: meet the right guy, get pregnant, find a job, finish school, figure out where to live, finish that giant project or in my case -- watch Patrick tie his shoes.

Yesterday, if you would have asked me when it was going to happen I would have said: "He's close, really close, but we've been close for months.  I just don't think it's going to happen.  At least not for awhile."

Somehow, because my heart went there yesterday, it's almost as if the universe wanted to prove its unpredictability.  Sure, Beth, close yourself off.  Believe it's not going to happen and then just watch for tomorrow's little ray of sunshine.  You can't will your heart to believe other things.  Sometimes, almost every time, it needs a little lesson in recognizing the miraculous.

Today is THE day!  Patrick tied his shoes all on his own.  I heard the yelling from another room: "Mom!  Mom!  Come quick!  I did it!" He had his shoe up on the coffee table and he was just gazing at his accomplishment. "I did it, mom!"  His face full of satisfaction and pride was undeniable. My heart could not get over the stunning revelation.  But yesterday? Yesterday it was not meant to be.  Today is THE day!

I had purchased Patrick's tennis shoes unwillingly.  I didn't want shoes that tied.  I wanted a velcro closure.  Mornings are hard and I wanted easy.  But, there were no velcro options in his size and I knew it was about time to force the shoe-tying issue and well, maybe I thought, this was a sign.  So, I put my game face on and told Patrick that we would be tying shoes this year.  He interpreted this to mean that I would be tying his shoes this year...um, not so much.  So every morning, Patrick begins the process and I do my best cheerleader impression:  "You can do it!  You're almost there.  Look!  You're so close. Just wrap around slowly."  You get the idea.  90% of the time, Patrick begins.  He has a great start, gets stuck in the loop wrapping and gets frustrated.  Occasionally, he will patiently deal with my hands over his hands showing him how. Once in awhile he will watch me tie it all the way but most of the time he just sighs with regret and looks away.  The accomplishment seemingly out of reach.

Lately, I've been finding Caroline tying his shoes.  Yes, that little bugger who learns so easily and adores her brother is happy to swoop in and do him a secret favor.  They hid it from me for about two days until I noticed Caroline's extreme helpfulness and King Patrick enjoying his servant. Busted!

So, I've been on shoe patrol -- making sure I was around when the process began and renewing my energy and enthusiasm for the prospect of finally mastering a difficult task.  After all, it is April.  If we don't get on it now, summer might come and force us into shoes that don't tie and all momentum might be lost. I redoubled my zeal and continued like the slow drip of a stalactite...bit by bit, determined to get this done.  But you can't force someone to learn and you can't teach an unwilling student so I knew I couldn't want it too bad.  As soon as it became my issue, I knew Patrick would back off. I had to find a balance of nonchalance and commitment.

It all came together today.  The dozen or so micro steps in tying a shoe were done in the right order, with the right amount of tension in the lace and with the belief that the tying was going to happen.  Like magic, it did.

Today, everybody in my house can tie their shoes which means that every single person can also tie a bow on a gift or decorate anything they would like to with a bow.  Today my day came wrapped with three bright bows of determination, persistence and accomplishment. I'm going to savor April 17, 2012.  Sweet victories all three.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Day Without Shoes

"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread." -- Mahatma Gandhi

I got my first pair of  Tom's shoes from Jack for my birthday two years ago.  They were red, flat and comfy.  They also allowed another person to have a pair of shoes...that's the mission of Tom's: to give away shoes to people who don't have any.

It's hard to imagine someone not having a single pair of shoes.  Not one.

I don't know anybody like this.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't anybody who has only one pair of shoes.  Infants in my world, who can't even stand up -- let alone walk, have several pairs.  Shoes are a part of our life.  Like breathing, we barely think about it.  As women, they are something we talk about, window shop for, discuss at parties, and buy.  We have flip flops, clogs, boots, rainboots, sandals, ballet flats, espadrilles, wedges, Uggs, stilettos, running shoes, cross-trainers, tennis shoes, Keds, Candies, and let's not forget the dreadful Crocs.  We have so many shoe options that we decide which pair to wear based on the event and quite often change our shoes throughout the day.

Shoes makes us happy.

When Jack gave me that first pair of Tom's, I was appreciative and pleased to see someone I loved do a bit for charity but I actually thought, "What's the point?  Of all the things someone may need, why shoes?  Why not clean water? Or farming techniques? Or clean clothes? Or medicine?"
I had no idea the incredible need.

Here are a few facts from the Tom's website:

  •  30,000 people LIVE in just one landfill in the Philippines,where children walk over broken glass, syringes and debris everyday.  
  • 1,890,000 Kenyan children are infected with jiggers -- burrowing fleas that cause painful leasions.
  • 4,000,000 people have podoconiosis -- a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by living barefoot in volcanic soil.
  • 740,000,000 people are affected by hookworm -- a soil-transmitted parasite that can cause intestinal pain, weakness and cognitive impairment.
  • Shoes, in some areas of the world, are required for children to attend school.  
No shoes = No education!

So I decided to attempt the Tom's challenge and go "one day without shoes".  It was a cold and rainy day at my house but I didn't have to go many places and so I thought it was possible.  One day.  How hard can that be?  It might be kind of fun...

Well, almost as soon as I began I wanted some socks at the very least.  I decided that was definitely cheating and far too wimpy so I nixed the sock option.  I hung around my house barefoot...no biggie.  Then I had to walk the dog in the rain and barefoot.  It felt odd, a bit uncomfortable but it wasn't too bad.    I felt a little free-spirited and frisky...I was doing it.  I came home and wanted to cover up those cold tootsies in a blanket but that was too close to cheating too.

Most of the day, I hung around barefoot and felt annoyed with having cold feet.  I didn't even stub a toe.

Then  I decided to head to the grocery store.  It wasn't entirely fair since I picked a grocery store known for fair trade coffee and organic produce.  I knew that if I was questioned, chances were good that they might side with me.  Since it was still raining and I might track something into the store, I felt very conspicuous.  I thought everyone would notice...hardly anyone did.  But suddenly I felt vulnerable and like a cultural weirdo.  I felt out of place, cold and ridiculous.  (I could only imagine what my 16 year old daughter would say if she saw me!)

I shopped for about 20 minutes and no one mentioned a thing.  (To be honest, I did go out of my way to avoid employees as I was worried they might kick me out of the store.)  As I was checking out, the man behind me mentioned that I had no shoes to the clerk and asked me if I was cold.  I felt embarrassed but told them the reason.  The clerk gave his support and approval.  The guy behind me gave me body language and eye rolling that let me know he thought I was whacked.  As I was walking out of the store, a mom with a ten year old saw my bare feet and told her son: "Look!  That lady has no shoes on and she's out in this weather.  Some people are crazy."  I felt a little crazy and a whole lot out of my comfort zone but then I thought about the millions of people who have no choice.

When I got home I was sorely tempted by the thought of socks again but I stayed strong.  All night long and even on the second walk of my faithful furry friend, Buddy, I stayed barefoot.  By the end I was desperate.  I wanted comfort, warmth and protection.  I didn't get it until my feet snuggled into the bottom of my bed.

Today I couldn't wait to put on my socks and all day my feet and I savored the comfort of my shoes.  But I also couldn't stop thinking about the millions of people who have no shoes to put on today.  As I tied my children's shoes and looked up into their eyes, I could see other people's children and felt not just guilty but heartbroken for those kids who can't go to school simply because they don't have a pair of shoes.

It's an indignity to have no shoes, but it is inhumane to deny someone an education because of it. You are crushing a future, squashing hope and frankly forcing someone into despair. The child just doesn't lose, we all lose.  When someone is denied their chance to learn and grow, it's impossible to imagine the ripples of loss that will continue.

It seems that my "one day without shoes" is going to last a lot longer than twenty four hours.  Today I am grateful for the sole and the soul of my shoes that afforded me comfort, protection and an education -- gifts that I took for granted for my entire life until yesterday. Better yet, I am humbled by the heart and soul of one man's vision to give shoes to the world...comfort, protection, education and hope all wrapped in a shoebox -- one pair at a time.