So, since I've started exploring running in my Vibrams, and thus researching the minimalist/barefoot running phenomenon, I've started getting emails from running groups and shoe companies, one of which is Tom's Shoes. Each spring, they sponsor an event called "One Day Without Shoes", which is an effort to raise awareness of children in poverty stricken areas (mostly overseas, but here too) who can't afford shoes and are exposed to dangers and diseases because of it.
At first I was gung-ho about the idea, but then a touch of cynicism reared its head. After running the Race for the Cure for a number of years in honor of my mom and my friend Jessica, I had a couple of people tell me they'd heard the race was nothing more than a big P.R. move so sponsors could look compassionate and that little was accomplished for helping eradicate cancer with the funds raised. I don't know if this is true, as I really never know who to believe when it comes to such accusations and the spin doctors who manipulate all sides of an issue. I guess I know if the story pops up on Fox News, I can just believe the opposite of what they say and I'm likely on target.
So, is this move by Tom's a great PR opportunity? Sure. They send one pair of shoes to needy kids for every pair they sell. So, why have people go barefoot on April 5th? Why not have a huge blowout sale on their shoes that day so more shoes go to the needy?
It comes down to awareness. Awareness is a powerful tool in getting people to keep concerns on their radar. I've never forgotten the "Meet Your Meat" video that PETA put out. It made me aware of how food gets to my table, and it stopped me cold for a good long time. Even today as a person who does eat meat occasionally (more so than I care to confess), I often think of that video and it makes me evaluate my choices.
I don't know if a day of strolling barefoot in the south on a spring day is going to make folks in my zip code even think twice about the perils of kids in the Congo. Tom's wisely scheduled their event on a work day so that people would have to step out of their comfort zone. But, I think anything we do in life that reminds us of how fortunate we are, and of our obligation to help others when we can is a good thing, be it a day without shoes, a month without meat, or a pink-ribboned mini-marathon for mammaries.
It's very easy to get discouraged by what we perceive to be people's intentions. While I praised cynicism in my last post, I think we can be too cynical about the thought behind certain corporate efforts to help others. Some do it because it looks good, and some do it because they have to. Some do it because it's the right thing to do and adheres with their values. I care less about why they do it and more about what I choose to do about it.
So, I don't know what I have on the calendar one month from today in terms of appointments, so I'm not going to guarantee I plan to spend the entire 24 hours unshod. But, for now, it seems like a fun and unobtrusive way to spread the word a bit about what Tom's Shoes is trying to do, just as running 3.1 miles with thousands of women and men seems a good way to let people know that they need to be proactive in their approach to breast cancer.
What do you think of such approaches to raising awareness? Are they helpful or detrimental? I'd love to get your two cents on the issue, from PETA to celebrity Katrina telethons, lacing up your shoes for a charity race to unlacing them for a day. Do these kinds of events enthrall you or leave you with, er, cold feet?