Shoes have a different meaning for me this week. A few weeks ago Mike limped into my office for a case management meeting. I wasn’t sure what I could help him with but he had been referred to me by an acquaintance. After several weeks of talking on the phone he finally made an appointment. Mike’s a big guy in his 60s. He was dressed casually in the uniform of our Island – shorts and a T-shirt. Mike had a nice smile but looked tired and stressed. He doesn’t walk well and seemed to be in pain. It was a hot Florida day and he took a few minutes to get settled as most do during the first appointment.
We got down to work. Mike shared his story of injuries which led to him not being able to work. Because he was only in his late 50s at the time, he was he told could not file for social security yet. He was able to file for, and receives, social security disability payments and is on Medicaid to cover his medical expenses.
Because his disability payments (about $750.00 per month) were nowhere near his earnings he lost his house. He has spent the last few years living in his car during the cooler months and renting a room (not an apartment – a room) when the temperature reaches over 90. He has no car payments – his vehicle is 11 years old – but does carry insurance. He belongs to a gym because his doctor told him to continue exercising after his last surgery and because he can shower there (it’s $40 a month). He got caught in a “pay day” loan last year and is still paying; he owes another 3 months on that. Add food and the monthly disability payment is gone.
We made a list of priorities for future meetings and then I asked Mike “What could you have today that would make your life better?”. He answered quickly “these shoes are broken down and make it even harder to walk”. I looked down at his shoes, an inexpensive tennis shoe. The sides were down around the soles, a hole in the toe of one and little tread left on the bottom. No wonder he limped so badly; those shoes probably needed to be replaced 6 months ago!
Long story short – I sent Mike shoe shopping with a gift certificate from I Love My Island, Inc.
At our next meeting Mike walked in – not quite so haltingly – in a new pair of bright red tennis shows! He said he was in less pain because he now had shoes that fit and supported his feet and body. He had worked on the goal list we had begun and shared that, despite his initial hesitation, he could see how our meetings might be able to help him.
So, I came home tonight and when I took off my shoes I counted – 12 pair of shoes. 4 pair each of dress, sports and sandals. That does not include my flip-flops which come to me via my cousin who finds wonderful sales and never spends more than $5.00 a pair.
So, I feel very thankful for my shoes today. And for the donors who made it possible for Mike to have a pair of shoes. And I am thankful for being able to contribute to people like Mike through my work because of our donors and our organization. And for my health – the “there but for the grace of God” adage comes to mind most every day, especially as I meet older Islanders who have needs.
I feel blessed. And I hope to never complain about shoe shopping again.
P.S. I’ve used “Mike” rather than his name to protect his identity. The story is true.