In the midst of media blitzes such as the current one, I long for something real and human more than ever. The following story from the “Readers Write” section of The Sun Magazine, fit the bill for me yesterday. And I was delighted to come across this poignant personal story from its pages on the experience of being at the receiving end of help. It offers important lessons for aid workers and do-gooders alike.

How often do we act as the local married couple in this story?

***

IN FIFTH GRADE I WORE HIGH-TOP brogans [a heavy laced usually ankle-high work boot] to a two-room schoolhouse in the foothills of the High Sierra [California, U.S.A.]. My father worked on a dam-construction project and was gone during the week. As the eldest boy, I got up at 5 AM and milked the cow before school.

The brogans were my only shoes, and I didn’t always clean them well enough after the morning chores. When some of the other students complained about the odor of manure on them, my mother decided to purchase a pair of rubber boots that I would wear for my barnyard chores. Meanwhile the brogans were just about worn out, and there was not enough money for rubber boots and school shoes. In the spring I began to go to school barefoot.

One a day a local married couple came to visit us on our farm and said they had heard I was going to school without shoes. They wanted to take me to church in the city, twenty miles away, and get me a pair of shoes. I submitted only after my older, sister, who was eleven, agreed to come along.

When the couple arrived on Sunday morning, I was disappointed that they hadn’t brought the shoes with them. They said I would get them when we got to church.

After we arrived at the church, I asked again about the shoes, because I thought it was a law that you had to wear shoes to church—especially a big, fancy one like this. The little church in our town was sparsely furnished with benches and a simple cross on the wall. The city church was decorated with huge curtains, stained glass, and gold statues. But the couple brought me inside barefoot.

After a half-hour of preaching and singing, the church had a sharing session, and the couple brought us before the congregation. The husband told everyone that I had been going to school barefoot and suggested taking up a collection for me. He pushed me out into the aisle, where I stood, shoeless, feeling ashamed, and fighting hard not to cry.

On the ride home I hid my face, and my sister put her hand on my head and just left it there the whole way back.

The couple returned to the farm only once. When I saw their car coming up the road next to the orange grove, I ran to the river and hid out until they had left. Later I went into the house, and in the middle of the kitchen table was a cheap pair of canvas sneakers, two sizes too large.

Gary Adams, Santa Barbara, California

***

This post originally appeared at: http://www.how-matters.org/2011/05/03/barefoot-in-church/

***

Related Posts

Aid, Africa, Corruption and Colonialism: An Honest Conversation

Grassroots = No Brains?

The Carpenters and the Rude Man

Rethinking Trust, by Ben Ramalingam

Our Most Important Job

Views: 24

Comment

You need to be a member of Community life competence to add comments!

Join Community life competence

Comment by irangbui on May 16, 2011 at 8:02pm

that was a shot from the other side of the door when every one was anticipating from the front door.

briliant JENNI.

gooders need to ponder over the story.

Comment by Olivia Munoru on May 12, 2011 at 10:44pm

Oh dear. What a terrible but brilliant story.

It makes me reflect on a terrible development project I was involved in in Kenya years ago. It almost brings tears to my eyes to admit it, but the "development" that we "delivered" was definitely a pair of cheap canvas sneakers, 2 sizes too big. The worst part was that the women in the village where we did this said development were having to walk miles to collect water, which they then heated on fire-wood that they had also collected, so that our bucket showers were warm. I remember reflecting on this as one of my travel partners, with her lovely blonde long locks, poured it over her hair to rinse out all the mud and sweat from working on a building site... yes - we built. While lines of men looking for labouring work were turned away.

It was a shameful time, but many lessons learned.

 

Thank you for reminding me.

About

Constellation: who are we

Constellation vidéo, where we journey in less then 2 minutes from space, through nature, to villages, in homes and back while exploring what the Constellation stands for. Thank YOU for being part of it. 

Social Media

Website: www.communitylifecompetence.org

Newsletter EnglishFrench Spanish  

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Constellation/457271687691239  

Twitter @TheConstellati1

Instagram: constellationclcp

Youtube channel: The Constellation SALT-CLCP



© 2019   Created by Rituu B. Nanda.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service