I am feeling particularly grateful this holiday season. My children are healthy, they’re happy and well-adjusted (most of the time) and we’ve made some huge progress figuring out how Kate’s diet affects, not only her moods and her behavior, but also her ability to learn. Life is good. But the thing that has me most excited right now is my new nonprofit, called Big Hearts Big Soles Inc.
Let me tell you the little story that got the whole thing started. I was dropping off some items I was donating at the Salvation Army—did I mention I’m a Thrift Store regular? They are my favorite place to buy clothes for myself and the kids, books and furniture. I love a project, like an old shelf, to repaint and fuss with until it looks like new again. Or if not new, funky will work. Anyway, I digress. I happened to overhear an employee of the Salvation Army, half talking to himself, half to me, mention he was looking for some size 17 shoes. “Who needs size 17 shoes?” I immediately asked, knowing both shoes and feet that big are rare. He told me a local homeless man needed them…and it was at that point that it occurred to me, how hard it would be for low-income or homeless men, to find shoes that size. Most people who need larger than a men’s 13 have to custom order their shoes…and they aren’t cheap either. What were the chances the right size would end up at the right place for someone with little to no resources? Slim to none, apparently.
I ended up telling the man that I might be able to help. Crocs is based in Boulder and I know someone who knows someone there. I also have some connections with the Detroit Pistons. I said, “I can’t promise, but let me see what I can do.” This encounter changed my life. Crocs immediately sent two pairs of size 17s to me (and they had to be sent to Colorado from out of state, the home-base of Crocs, which shows how hard it is to track down shoes this big) and pretty soon, three pairs of brand new athletic shoes, all size 17, that had been sitting in the Pistons’ equipment room were headed to Boulder. Being able to give this man the first new shoes he had in over three years was amazing. I realized that I don’t have to be independently wealthy or even anyone special to jump in, get involved and make a difference.
To make a long story short, the woman who works at the shelter, who had initially put out the word out that this man needed shoes, became my co-founder and since October, we’ve been able to provide 19 pairs of shoes to people in our area, including three size 17s, three size 15s and 10 pairs to a high school students in Denver who play basketball but can’t afford decent athletic shoes to play in.
Since starting Big Hearts Big Soles Inc., (and yes we are now an official 501C3) I’ve made an extra effort to get involved with the homeless population in Boulder. Just because you don’t need big shoes, doesn’t mean Big Hearts Big Soles won’t try to help. In fact, I’ve realized I might be a horrible business woman because I can’t say no to anyone. If someone approaches me, I will try, no matter what, to get them what they need. The homeless folks I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting, are the farthest thing from “lazy moochers who are looking for handouts.” Many of them are among the least selfish I’ve met. A visibly shivering man kept refusing my offer of warmer clothes when the temps hovered around 5 degrees last week saying “I’m sure there’s someone here colder than I am.” But there didn’t seem to be so I put on my Bossy Hat (which I am quite comfortable with as a mother of three) and told him he had to go put on those extra layers. I was laughing…but I meant it. And he did. I also took a homeless man and woman I met out to coffee one morning as I had been trying to find boots for Donna Jean. She had been wearing sneakers with soles that flapped open like an old puppet when she walked. I encouraged her and her friend Bear to order whatever they wanted but even though they hadn’t eaten breakfast, they would only let me buy them coffee and a muffin.
Other than the immediate benefit of knowing that I am helping others, starting Big Hearts Big Soles Inc. has also helped my children to understand that sometimes we “need” things and sometimes we “want” things. It’s helped them put their own lives in perspective (a little) to know that even though some of their friends have bigger houses or more toys or go on tropical vacations while we stay home, we’re still pretty darn lucky. So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of the things that are easy to take for granted: health, employment, shelter, warm food and clean sheets.
What are you thankful for this year?