Wednesday, July 02, 2014
We offered an old-fashioned foot washing service, not in a church, but out in a vacant lot.
The event combined the spiritual and the utilitarian about as perfectly as any experience I've ever witnessed.
Think about it.
If you are homeless, you walk a lot. Your feet remain perpetually tired from the parade march that fills your days. Your shoes may not fit. A major challenge is finding some place where you can sit down to "get off your feet." Having your feet washed is like a little taste of heaven, just for a short while.
What made this event special was the fact that homeless people returned the favor. Some of our homeless neighbors washed the feet of their housed friends.
In the midst of the activity, over at the edge, a friend of mine showed me the blisters that plastered his feet.
His foot is size 14 extra wide! He has a big foot.
The shoes he wore were about size 11. They were worn out. They rubbed the top of his feet raw.
"Brother, Larry," he said, "do you think you could find me a pair of shoes that fit? That's all I ask."
Of course, I said, "Sure. I'll work on that."
Later that day I learned that a size 14 extra wide shoe has to be special ordered!
About a week later, after the shoes arrived, I found my friend out on the street.
I pulled up beside him at the corner and presented him with new socks and a pair of 14 extra wide, New Balance walking shoes.
The first words out of his mouth stunned me.
"You remembered, brother Larry, you remembered!" he almost shouted.
I thought to myself, well, sure I remembered.
Not a big deal.
But to him it was the whole deal.
He turned to a buddy standing behind him on the sidewalk at the corner and said, "They remembered me! They didn't forget me!"
The shoes were nice. They fit and everything.
But the great learning, the big take-away for me was the importance and the power of being remembered.
Like I say, utilitarian: sore, hot, blistered feet placed in comfortable new shoes.
But, also so spiritual: "Do this in memory of me"--spiritual in a real world way. A sacrament of the street.
Let's not forget to remember.