One of the joys of autumn, when I was growing up, was going shoe shopping. I’m not making this up y’all. I looked forward to getting those back-to-school shoes each September. For one thing, I had gone barefoot all summer. It is one thing to wax nostalgic about a shoeless summer — “blessings on thee, little man; barefoot boy with cheeks of tan,” and all that. The reality of a barefoot summer, however, included stubbed toes, hot sidewalks and sandspurs — not to mention dog poop between the toes.
I was happy to have a pair of sneakers to lace up when the school bell beckoned after Labor Day.
Those new sneakers would have to last me all year, so I was careful to pick out the right pair. Truth be known, we never called what we had on our feet "sneakers." We called them "tennis shoes," although I never met anyone who actually played tennis until I went to high school.
I never seemed to get the shoes I really wanted. Some things never change. I was greatly influenced by Madison Avenue when I was a kid -- even more so than I am today -- and Madison Avenue used television commercials and comic book ads to reach the kids of my generation. Yes, comic book ads. Think about it -- where better to sell shoes designed to make a kid run faster and leap higher than in a Superman comic?
I always wanted P.F. Flyers. They had some of the grandest ads. They would show kids -- mostly boys, of course -- running here and there, all over their neighborhoods, leaping and jumping and climbing -- always in their black canvas high-tops. I remember one commercial where two boys saw a guy hanging by his legs from a church steeple. They ran to the fire station for help. Superman wasn't the only person in the '50s that was faster than a speeding bullet. I just knew that if I had a pair of P.F. Flyers that I could be a hero, too.
It was not to be, however. I always got Keds shoes, with the little blue label. When I wanted white Keds I got black because they didn't show dirt as bad, and when I wanted low-cuts I got high-tops because I had "weak ankles."
When I finally made it to high school I discovered Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars -- still of the canvas variety, of course -- and once I graduated from college and began my coaching career I made my teams wear canvas Cons long after leather sneakers became the rage.
Now of course footwear is a bigger business than ever before and everybody tries to define themselves by whose shoe they wear -- Nike, Adidas, Reebok -- everybody is label conscious when it comes to sneakers.
Well, actually, that is almost everybody. There are some people who could care less what kind of sneakers adorn their feet, as long as they are in one piece and keep their feet warm and comfortable and dry. That's right. There are many, many people -- young and old, male and female -- who are wondering what they will wear on their feet this winter. And there are more people like that in our very community than we would care to admit.
Jesus said, "If you love me, take care of my sheep." He also said, "I was barefoot and you gave me shoes."
OK. I paraphrased that last one. He said, "I was naked and you gave me clothes." Same difference.
The First Baptist Church in Conyers likes to take the words of Jesus and put them into action in ways that help the people of this community -- and the world community -- who need help the most. Last year, you might recall, they collected 17,000 pairs of blue jeans and distributed them to men, women, young people and children in our community and beyond that otherwise would not have had blue jeans.
This year the emphasis is on sneakers. They have just kicked off their "Lose your Sole" campaign and hope to collect at least 10,000 pairs of new or gently worn sneakers between now and Christmas. They hope that people will donate shoes that they would wear themselves and not shoes that they have worn out themselves. The shoes will be distributed to agencies as close as right next door and as far away as Africa, Nicaragua and Eastern Kentucky.
The church has many activities lined up in conjunction with their shoe drive. There will be a "Lose Your Soles" 5K and Fun Run on Oct. 29. On Nov. 13 morning worship attendees are encouraged to show up wearing sneakers -- and to go home without them. The entire community is invited to consider donating a pair -- or two -- of sneakers at the church's annual living Christmas in December. And of course there will be donation barrels at many schools and businesses around town. Feel free to call 770-483-8700 to find a convenient location.
I recently asked Pastor Jeff Meyers what precipitated the "Lose your Soles shoe drive." The answer was quite simple. A lot of folks around the world don't have shoes -- and are susceptible to disease and injury and, well -- like I said earlier, folks just need shoes.
Pick up a pair, y'all -- or two or three -- and pitch in. You'll be glad. I promise.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.