Onions, Sole Hope, & East Coast Benefactory
My daughter has a shoe fetish. I promise, she did not get this from me. I wear the same pair of $1 Old Navy flip flops every day of the summer and would gladly do without even those if I were allowed to enter Target barefoot. She, on the other hand, chooses her outfits from the shoes up and has been known to bring a second pair in her backpack...you know, just in case. For Christmas, all she wanted was a pair of mint green Converse high top Chuck Taylors…"Cons” as she wrote on her list. Yes, we got her the cons, but I want her to see past the world of name brand shoes as well.
“Did you know millions of kids around the world don’t have any shoes at all.”...........“What??”..........“And they walk everywhere.”..........“What???”..........“And that have to walk through dirt and animal poop and bugs.".........“What?????”
This was just too much for her. I sat her on my lap at the computer, and we watched a video from Sole Hope…
(If you're unfamiliar with Sole Hope, please watch this video to learn and be inspired...and because the rest of this post won't make sense without it...)
Tears streamed down my face and filled her little eyes. I was aware of yet another “small” blessing we had that so many others didn’t. I was aware of the times I’d thought my girl “needed” a new pair of shoes, as in “she needs white flats to go with her Easter dress” or “she has a pair of dressy boots, but she needs a pair of casual boots.” I was aware of how, as her mother, I could just drive to the store her and buy her whatever she “needed,” and I was aware of how much so many others had true needs and couldn’t do the same.
But Sole Hope did more than just change my view of children’s footwear. Let me begin with all the onion-y layers of why I love Sole Hope (as in, the tears increase the deeper you get):
They meet a practical need. Using the oh-so-simple and inexpensive tools of education, soap, and a safety pin, they heal feet and change lives. The people they serve are literally suffering from a flesh-eating parasite, the stuff our American nightmares are made of. Sole Hope serves the children and people of Uganda by removing the parasites, teaching them about prevention and hygiene, then placing protective shoes on their newly tended feet.
They employ the people of Uganda, funneling money right into the communities they serve in a sustainable way. This is just aid done right.
They free people from both the physical pain of jiggers and the shame and stigma that accompany them. Can you imagine suffering and being told it’s because you are cursed? This is literally adding insult to injury. After being served by Sole Hope, people are welcomed back into their communities, children are able to attend school, restoration occurs.
They bring the love and message of Jesus. The founders and staff of Sole Hope are in love with Jesus and, while their primary goal is to heal people’s feet, they carry along with them the message that can heal their lives.
They are literally mirroring Jesus’ humble service by washing.feet. The image of a Christian sister on her knees, washing the feet of a dear one brought instantaneous tears to my eyes. I strive to figuratively follow the Savior’s example and “wash feet.” They are actually doing it.
They give us-comfy-on-our-couches-Americans the opportunity to actually work and serve to meet the need of dear ones across the world. I could write a check, and it could be a sacrifice of love. But when I spend hours collecting and cutting jeans, hosting people in my home and working alongside them, shopping for supplies, packing and shipping a box, and writing a check, my heart is in it in a whole other way. This is why I love Sole Hope. I love Sole Hope because they’ve inspired me to love and serve those I’ve never met in a way I never could’ve without them.
Now let’s work our way back out of the onion. No more getting deep. The fun, easy, and yes, maybe even shallow ways I love to support Sole Hope:
Host a Shoe Cutting Party. If you’re a party planner (I am) and like to hang out friends (I do), then this one is for you. Basically, you have your friends over (chocolate, chips & guac, and sangria included) and ask them each to bring a pair of old jeans and $10, then you spend the night cutting your jeans into patterns that will be used to make shoes for children in need. I’ve done this with 10 friends in my living room and 200 fellow church members in my church’s foyer. Your shoe party can be as big or small as you need it to be. The key is that you’re working to serve others and inviting those around you to do the same. (Note: If you’re not a party planner and don’t have any friends, you A) should go get some and B) can do this on your own. You can make your night time TV watching meaningful with a pair of jeans and some scissors!)
Read “Take a Walk in My Shoes” to your kids. I love any resource that opens my kids’ eyes to the needs of others. You may tear up as you read it, but your child will enjoy it. Little do they know their global perspective and compassion-index just got a major bump.
Involve your kids in serving Sole Hope. Paint your cut shoe patterns with them, shop for stickers/bandaids/supplies with them, show them the pictures of the kids Sole Hope serve, and pray with them. “Jigger” has become a normal word in our house, and my son's most repeated night time prayer is, “Help the kids with the jiggers in their feet."
Follow them on Facebook & Instagram. I don’t know what social media marketing expert and Pulitzer prize winning photographer they have following them around, but their social media pages are just beautiful and inspiring and share-worthy. You can do your little part advocating just by following and sharing. (After sharing about Sole Hope, a super motivated/motivating friend of mine caught the vision of Sole Hope and hosted/coordinated/taught/inspired 70 other people to get involved and cut FIVE HUNDRED pairs of shoes and donate thousands of dollars. My involvement in this was literally pressing the share button.)
Buy stuff. Sole Hope has a super cool store. I have shirts and bumper stickers and a travel mug. I’m like a walking Sole Hope advertisement. You should be, too.
- LAST AND CERTAINLY NOT MOST SHALLOW OF ALL (DID MY ONION ANALOGY INSINUATE THAT? OOPS.) - VISIT EAST COAST BENEFACTORY AND BUY EVERYTHING!!!!
You know that person on your shopping list. The one who is just far too cool for a mass-made, available-to-your-average-Target-shopping-mortal gift? Well, East Coast Benefactory and its hand-made, artisan products are for that person. Check out the uber hip, I-want-this-now-status leather mason jar holders and wooden signs, and you'll see what I mean.
East Coast Benefactory is actually “just” a mom on a mission. And while you must refer to East Coast Benefactory as East Coast Benefactory, East Coast Benefactory and I are on a first name basis (it’s Laura....her first name is Laura). Laura is my best friend’s best friend, which of course means that while we’ve only hung out a number of times, we share a deep, sacred bond. I’m convinced that Laura has one of the very cutest Etsy shops around, but cute isn’t enough to get a mention on this mission-focused blog.
Laura gives 50% of every purchase from her Etsy shop to Sole Hope. In most cases this means she’s profiting nothing at all for herself, and I’m pretty sure that in some cases, she’s losing money. She’s spending up her time and creativity, hand-crafting these beautiful products, then handing off any profit that should and would be hers to others. A mom using her spare minutes and her creative gifts to benefit others is the kind of thing I want to throw my money at. And you should, too, so go and throw your money at her and buy it all.