Recently, I have been wearing these shoes. They remind me where I have been.
When I was in college I went on two mission trips to Huancayo, Peru. On the first trip I wore theses shoes. I wore them up and down mountains, in cities and through countryside, in different airports and on a large bus that I was a little afraid I might not get off of. But the most significant place I wore them was to a orphanage. When I walked through those orphanage gates, my shoes looked different. They did not have bright red laces. Those came later. They had black ones.
We spent most of that day playing with children of all ages at the orphanage. That's what I remember anyway. I also remember this little girl who had trouble running and keeping up with the other kids. At first I couldn't understand why. She didn't seem to have a disability of any sort.
And then I noticed her shoes. In the place where her laces should have been, there were only pitiful thin pieces of twine. Barely holding her shoes together. My shoes felt snug and tight on my feet. I could run for miles, but she struggled to run a few feet without her shoes flopping around and tripping her up.
The missionaries had told us to be careful about just giving things away. That we should ask someone before we gave something away to be sure that no one took advantage of us. I didn't even think about this warning as I knelt down beside the little girl and started unlacing my shoes. She sat down next to me and caught on pretty quickly to what I was doing. She chatted excitedly to a friend near her, pointing and gesturing as I looped those shoelaces into her shoes. She didn't seem to care at all how dark and black my shoelaces were. She was just over-joyed that the key to running and climbing and keeping up with the other kids was being laced and tied into the eyelets of her worn shoes as she sat waiting.
And as all giving should, this giving left a void. This giving was a sacrifice. I now had no shoelaces, in a third world country where they are harder to come by then you would think. Later that afternoon, a few members of my team and I had to go tromping around downtown to try and find me some new laces (this was my one pair of tennis shoes). We went in shoe store after shoe store.
"Shoelaces?" We asked.
And storeowner after storeowner shook their heads.
Finally, in the last store on a row of stores, an older man opened a large bag and pulled out a pair of bright red shoelaces. Being a Georgia Bulldawg and a "Red" at summer camp, these did not bother me in the least. And I have not changed them since.