TOMS is a company that works on the simple principal of One for One. When a pair of TOMS shoes (which are based on the equally simple Argentine Alpargatas design) or a pair of their eyeglasses are sold, a pair is given to an impoverished kid. Shoe drops happen as close to home as the US.
At noon on Tuesday April 16th, TOMS invited the people of Toronto to take a few minutes of their lunch hour, gather at Ryerson’s pond and take their shoes off. Experiencing for just 15 minutes what kind of challenges going barefoot present.
I intended on being present at the event so I could do a photo essay. I thought about the event for days beforehand. I came to feel that fifteen minutes was less than noble or noteworthy; it wasn’t enough for me. I thought it would be a good act of conscious clearing if I walked (albeit in shoes) from my home to Ryerson’s campus. A walk Google Maps says takes 90 minutes, but from experience I know is closer to two hours.
They say the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. I missed the event. I showed up at Ryerson to find nothing but a scrawled chalk message saying the walk started there. I tried to head it off at the destination: Old City Hall. Or I thought it was Old City Hall.
I messed up. I felt bad. Not even taking the Dufferin bus home was enough self-flagellation for me. So, when I got to the front door of my building I took off my shoes and walked around my block. It was raining and cold. Mostly cold.
I’m happy I did it. In the email sent around about the event, organizers asked those who couldn’t join the walk to act in solidarity by going barefoot wherever they were; at work, around the house. I guess I didn’t have to do my walk outside but I did.
It made me think about how I went around barefoot all the time as a kid. I hated wearing shoes and it drove my mother crazy. She was always sick with worry and even stepping on a nail in a plank of wood and having it go clean through my foot when I was 8 wasn’t enough to stop me from roaming our downtown Calgary neighborhood sans chaussures. I guess I still prefer to go barefoot. And I’m really not too proud to admit that I wear my shoes until they fall off my feet (this actually literally happened once in a Value Village where I was trying on new shoes). If I lift up my foot on any given day you’re likely to see giant holes. Especially on the left. So I guess technically a part of my bare foot is always touching the ground.