Column: Poverty has many pieces


The Maroon



As April arrived, I knew lots of things were sure to follow – the end of the semester, final exams and Bonnie Hopkins encouraging all of us to participate in One Day Without Shoes with a series of cheerful Facebook posts.

I had done One Day Without Shoes before in short spurts. I’ve always had to put my shoes on for some reason – working backstage at a play or going to an interview. This is the first year I’ve been able to spend the whole day without shoes, and I realized that even though I was aware of the hazards associated with not having shoes, I had never thought deeply about them before.

The realizations started almost immediately: I started my day by checking my feet for cuts and scratches. I didn’t want to participate in One Day Without Shoes if I was randomly going to pick up an infection. I realized while I was doing this that I had the privilege to take that precaution.

As the day went on, I began to realize more and more of the privileges I possessed by simply wearing shoes. I went to the Founder’s Day Celebration to get some food and realized that I was walking in the mud. People almost stepped on my feet. A cockroach crawled over my foot at one point. I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the day and realized how much infection I could risk by going in there without shoes.

Granted, we live in a fairly clean environment, and cockroaches on my feet didn’t do anything to me except weird me out a little, but shoes offer so much protection against heat, cold and infection. It’s more than being grossed out about stepping in mud (or stepping in food, which I admit that I did a lot during the Founder’s Day event because I was not watching where I was going). It would be so painful to walk on cement in the summer. I’d hate to repeatedly use public restrooms without shoes on my feet.

When I get dressed in the morning, I often think about which shoes to match with my outfit so that I’ll look cute or presentable. I don’t think about keeping my feet safe, which is the primary function of shoes. I realize that, but I don’t think about it.

There is so much more to poverty than what we usually think about. Poverty means hunger. Poverty means a lack of access to education. But this day has reopened my eyes to another idea: poverty also means lack of access to the smaller things that are still important. A toothbrush. Books. Shoes.

Kylee McIntyre can be reached at [email protected]