Events, Rescue Missions, Seattle, Seattle

Follow the Signs

2 Comments 02 July 2010

Under this sign everyone has shoes.

Under this sign people need shoes

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. – Saint Augustine

Last week took us to Seattle for the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & 1/2 Marathon.  Seattle is a city I have a love for because of my wife calling it home. Many friends and family remain in the rainy city.  I had been looking forward to attending this event ever since we missed it’s inaugural race last year.

To begin with, I had an amazing group of friends who I met all on Twitter that were helping me promote we would be in Seattle.  My friend Ryan Hodgson from Team Up for Non-Profits introduced me to Debbie Whitlock who hosts a radio show in Seattle. Not only was Debbie kind enough to volunteer her time to work our booth but she also had me on her radio show. (listen here) Thanks again Debbie!  The stage was set and we were ready to collect shoes on behalf of the Seattle Union Gospel Mission.

Look for this sign at your next race

Every event I can’t help but want to collect as many shoes possible.  This event was no different. The first day at the expo started out pretty slow until 6:30 pm when I got a call from a donor asking if I could meet her curbside to unload some shoes. As I approached her tailgate I was shocked! She had collected 6 HUGE garbage bags of shoes on her own. After hauling them inside I was off to an event hoping to network with people who I thought might be able to further our cause. I met some incredible people and made some great friends who I think will help us down the road. Only time will tell and that’s for another post.

After two days of collecting at the expo it was race day. I always enjoy race day because there is something breathtaking about people donating their shoes while facing sheer exhaustion. Even though their body is in turmoil their spirit still wants to give more and that is remarkable to me.

Race donor expressing her joy for giving

Luckily the Seattle rain never made an appearance and we were able to collect shoes from a great number of runners. By days end we had 452 pairs for those in need on the streets of Seattle. After we finished for the day, the shelter did their daily pickup onsite and took the shoes. By Monday they would be on the feet of people who needed them. Little did I know the first pair to be handed out would be to a woman who was in desperate need of shoes.

Feet of woman needing shoes

I showed up at the shelter Monday morning to get some film footage for our site and to interview a few people on the street about what it means to have a pair of shoes. Even though it was the mens shelter, this woman appeared in hopes of getting in for food. Little did she know a pair of shoes is what she would also receive. This picture doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what her feet looked like. They were swollen and cracked beyond anything imaginable. I went to the basement of the shelter where all the donated items were stored and started tearing open bags of shoes until I found 3 pairs that I thought might fit her. Most times people have forgotten their size, either because they have been wearing the wrong size to just make do or they have not had the money to buy an adequate pair. Lucky for her, the first pair she tried, fit.

If the shoe fits, it's yours!

As I look back on our transaction I remember she had a mask on for allergy reasons or health reasons of some other kind and we never exchanged names. I guess it really wasn’t necessary. All I could see was her eyes and as I looked up from her foot as it slid into her new shoe I could tell from the lines around her eyes a smile was under her mask. “Thank you sir” was all that was said and we parted ways.

There are many signs we come across in our daily lives. Sometimes if we follow them we stay out of harms way and if we don’t, bad things happen. I’m not sure what signs those on the street might have seen and not followed and to be honest it’s not for me to say they should have. All I know is, the sign I’ve read says for us to love our neighbor. That’s definitely one I think if we all followed more often would change the world. After all, you can’t look at this smile and tell me different.

Man on the street expressing his joy of receiving

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2 Comments so far

  1. Brett it was my pleasure to meet you last weekend. You are a true example of someone making a difference.

    As I left the race myself on Saturday – my own feet enjoying the comfort of my new Give Your Sole flip flops – I passed a homeless fellow on the way back to my car who had no shoes – and I felt such joy knowing that because of your great work and the support of the people of the event and our community – by Monday – he would have an opportunity to have shoes on his feet.

    Keep up your great work – and we’ll see you back here next year!

  2. Scott says:

    Bret,

    Thanks for dropping off the shoes at the Seattle Union Gospel Mission. This came at a time that found our shoe shelves barren of good soles for needy souls.

    I look forward to the possibility of working with your cause here in Seattle during the near future.

    Scott Sowle


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