In some ways, TOMS Shoes One Day Without Shoes is delightfully subversive.
The common mythos is that walking barefooted is horribly dangerous. Store owners are sure that they have hazards everywhere (if so, why aren’t they removing them?). Yet, in 16 years of shopping barefooted, I’ve never had an injury inside any store. Oh, wait. I’m lying — I cut my finger on a coupon dispenser in a grocery store once. A nasty gash, too. And I didn’t even sue them. After all, what were my damages? The cost of a band-aid? People are also sure that walking on streets is incredibly dangerous. They have fears of glass and needles everywhere. Well, there just isn’t that much. And if you do step on glass barefooted, the odds of puncturing your skin is quite low. See Dave Canterbury’s Assumptions.
And all those people who participate in “One Day Without Shoes” will find that out. In fact, I suspect that, deep down, most people might know that already. Nobody ever has a “One Day Without Seatbelts” (to draw attention to all the lack of seatbelts in vehicles in Africa), or “One Day Without Grounded Electrical Outlets”.
There was some concern about safety, though. In this story, Went Barefoot To Help “One Day Without Shoes”, Nicolette Saraf, a high school student, was suspended for participating, because her school had a shoe rule. The reason?
The Principal warned her not to come to school in bare feet because doing so violated health standards.
Oh, geez. That false myth again. Don’t school administrators know how to do research? Don’t they know how to learn?
Many of the participants also find out just how much more comfortable it is without shoes. They may officially be going shoeless to show solidarity with the supposed discomfort of the shoeless in Africa, but what is more likely is that they get through the day just fine while barefoot, and don’t have their usual stinky shoes to take off at the end of the day. (And if they do have discomfort, that’s from trying to walk on feet that have been splinted and coddled — they’d also have a lot of discomfort if they tried to run up the stairs of the Empire State Building without easing into it first.)
One more thought. In one of the comments to last year’s entry, someone wrote:
Awww, come on, people! It doesn’t matter HOW people are making a difference, but at least they’re trying. . . . I think that kids in third world countries would really appreciate something nice like shoes. What makes them all the better is that they know that people care!
That’s sweet, but misguided. Yes, it does matter how people try. I could “try” by twirling around 3 times while chanting, but that would be totally ineffective. And how useful for them to know that people care. While they are puking their guts out and getting horribly dehydrated from the dysentery from the diseased water they drank, at least they will know that people care. Please. That is, once again, why I recommend something like Peepoople.com. The problem, from both a health and barefooting perspective, is proper sanitation. Solve that and you’ve killed two birds with one stone.