BY AMANDA MORGAN
Every day when I wake up for school, I follow a fairly routine schedule; I shower, get dressed, brush my teeth and hair, eat breakfast and just before I walk out the door, I put my shoes on. Luckily, I have never had to worry about what it would be like if I had no shoes to put on.
A few weeks ago, I volunteered at Jacob’s Shoes, a foundation that provides shoes to children who do not get to put on shoes every morning as mindlessly as I do. I participated in this event with other high school students from my temple youth group. This was the first time we had participated in this community project, so we did not really know what to expect.
As we entered the building, we were directed to a room that overflowed with dirty used shoes, waiting to be cleaned and donated. I stepped in, motivated to do the best job I could, but also overwhelmed by the amount of work this job was going to require. My eyes were drawn to the wall of pictures showing underprivileged children who were overjoyed as they held their “new” pair of shoes.
I have always heard stories of kids who are not nearly as privileged as many of the people living in Weston, but while I sat there cleaning these shoes and listening to the director tell us the stories of those kids in the pictures, it all became real. I finally realized how difficult life could be when people don’t have certain things, such as shoes, which I imagined everyone had.
The director gave us the history of the foundation and why it was originally developed. Jacob’s Shoes is a foundation developed as a remembrance of Jacob S. Zweig who was killed at the age of 17. Jacob had a love for many things, including his family, friends and especially shoes. Everybody who knew Jacob felt that his journey was meant to be continued, whether he was here or not. So, Jacob’s Shoes was created as a way to provide children with something that meant so much to him.
The director showed us how to clean the shoes. I did not expect to be cleaning the shoes so thoroughly as they were already used and were being put into the washing machine soon after. However, we were told to first inspect the shoes for any damage or broken soles, and then we were to examine the bottom and take out any rocks or sticks that were stuck in the cracks. Finally, the real cleaning began. This entailed scrubbing the inside and the outside as well as the bottom so deliberately that they looked as new as they could.
I was able to clean around five pairs of shoes in the short hour that we were there, which doesn’t sound like a lot. However, each pair required quite a bit of work and attention.
The director gave us of some examples of different types of kids who come in to get shoes. She shared with us that some siblings are forced to switch off shoes every other day, meaning that each child can only go to school on the days that it is his/her turn to use the shoes. This really encouraged and motivated us as we sat through this tedious process of cleaning used shoes.
What I first thought was a little gross, turned out to be not that bad. In fact, I ended up feeling very accomplished. It felt really good knowing that the pairs that I cleaned were going to provide people with shoes that would enable them to do the things that they love everyday. It could allow them to do something as simple as waking up and going to school just like I do every day, without worrying about being laughed at or made fun of.
If nothing else, this experience has shown me how lucky I am to grow up in a fortunate family and own things as simple as shoes. Until now, I had never realized to the full extent how little things, such as shoes, could affect a person’s life so deeply. As I continue through my life, I know that I will definitely return to Jacob’s Shoes to participate in this work again.