Five aisles and nine pairs of shoes later, and aggravated by my younger sister Teresa’s incessant foot tapping, I was on edge. Shopping has never been my fortÃ©, and as the minutes dragged on, that fact became quite evident to everyone awaiting my selection. I had a general idea of what I was looking for, but was absolutely no help to the patient saleswoman who had joined my pursuit on the fourth pair. I knew I needed something sturdy, comfortable, and versatile for the journey, but I also desired something that was not gaudy, something practical for every day. Seconds later, I saw them. Blue for my own pleasure, brown to mask the massive amounts of dirt that I soon would be scrubbing off my feet each night, and thick soles — they were perfect! Little did I know how perfect they would be.
My ultimate comfort during the twenty-two hour flight came courtesy of my new shoes with the moldable soles. As we left the Nairobi airport, they were as accommodating as they had been the hour we left Atlanta. Whether it was on the bus, airplane, or in our room at the Presbyterian Home, the shoes with the blue and brown straps had surpassed my every hope. Even after running on four hours of sleep, they proved to satisfy my utmost desire for support.
The true test came the next day on the soccer field. Soon after introductions to the families were made, the children were tapping their feet, reminiscent of Teresa’s rhythm a week earlier, but for a completely different reason. These beautiful, outgoing children of Ngaamba were tapping their feet with unbridled joy on their very own football field with their new ‘rafikis.’ I looked around for the field only to realize I was standing on it: a field of dust, thorns, and weeds.
With every turn and pass, we kicked up dust, but we could not be happier playing with a ball of twine the size of a grapefruit. After a wipeout of my own, with five ten-year olds racing over to assist me in brushing off the dust, I looked down at my feet. Miraculously, although my feet were covered in an extra layer of color, my shoes were in pristine condition. While still on the ground, I looked at the faces of Mary, Joseph, and their three friends, and then back down to my feet and legs. In the blink of an eye, I began to feel the coarse, dry, and chapped fingers and palms of the children rubbing up and down my legs. As they continued, I observed the torn clothing of every child, and the fact that only one of them was wearing shoes. I had spent an hour agonizing over the pair of shoes to match the conditions of Kenya but almost everyone I met matched the conditions of Kenya with their own bare feet.
At that moment, every feeling I had been suppressing came rushing to the emotional surface. I thought of these children walking six miles to the nearest school building on rocky roads without shoes. My perfect shoes with their moldable soles were ideal in one sense, but then again so were the calloused feet of the children. Their feet had become the very shoes that I’d been searching for. They were sturdy, comfortable, and versatile enough for their own journeys, but not in any way gaudy. They were very practical for everyday. They were perfect.
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