Kindness: It’s Like Walking a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

In the early 1990s I witnessed, through volunteering at various youth and adult shelters in Toronto, the urgent need for new or gently used shoes for those staying there.
pexels-taufiq-klinkenborg-384553 (1)

I approached a local shoe retailer for a donation of surplus shoes, and the manager furnished the name and number of the owner located in Montreal. After reaching him by phone, he appeared receptive to a donation of surplus shoes sometime in the future. Two weeks later, a truck showed up at my place of work with 213 pairs of brand-new children’s and adult shoes. There was no fanfare, photo-op, and tax receipt needed, just the understanding that there were people in need of shoes.

My mother used to tell my sister and me about growing up in poverty in Toronto in the 1930s. Every year the City authorities would give my mother and her two sisters a pair of gently used shoes to wear. On the surface, this act of charity seemed like a win, but my mother remembered it differently. Why? Because there was a number indelibly etched on the sole of each shoe. My mother recalled how she shuffled her feet in public so that no one could see the number on the soles of those donated shoes that branded her as poor.

The 213 pairs of new shoes I received for distribution to those in need had no distinguishing numbers to stigmatize the kids and adults receiving them. Instead, there was the knowledge that someone cared enough to think about people they did not know—people who shared the same need as everyone for love, home, kinship and dignity.  

Like the seams binding our shoes, these are the threads that bind us together as one family in one world. 

Eli’s Place will be a rural, residential treatment program for young adults with serious mental illness. To learn more about our mission and our proven-effective model click here.

David Cooper | Eli’s Place Founding Director

David Cooper is the Founding Director of Eli’s Place, and co-author of Bridge over the River Why, a guide for parents who have lost children to suicide.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Help us open the doors of Eli's Place

Subscribe to recovery matters

Join our community of support!

Our newsletter and blogs offer consistent, original content designed to inform and educate. We explore mental health from diagnosis to treatment and resilience to recovery. Our outlook includes both a systems point of view and personal perspectives.


Join our Community

Subscribe today & get a FREE E-BOOK
Never Say Never is a collection of essays about hope, resilience and working through loss. Compiled and edited by Eli's Place Founder David L. Cooper & David Zarnett.

Subscribe to access the ebook, we will also send it in our Welcome Email!

Thank You for Subscribing!

We hope you enjoy this abbreviated digital copy of Never Say Never, Stories of Hope, Resilience & Working Through Loss

Click the button to open the Ebook – You will also find a link in our Welcome Email!