Several years ago theologian Stanley Hauerwas allowed me to come and visit with him at Duke University. Our conversation covered several topics and a few of the things he said stuck with me. One thing he said was this: “Jim, the point of a book is to start a conversation.”
While I am hesitant and wholly unqualified to interpret Hauerwas for anyone, I took that to mean the formation and deepening of friendships around a book are as important, if not more important, than the content of a book. Or, to put it another way, books invite sharing; implicit to the value of a book is the community that grows up around it.
That certainly squares with something one of own professors used to say: “Jesus did not leave us a book; Jesus left us a community with a book”.
I am thinking that what those wise professors said applies to shoes as well. “The point of a pair of shoes is to start a conversation.” “Jesus did not leave us with a pair of shoes; Jesus left us a community with pairs of shoes.”
I have been hearing anecdotes about people shopping for shoes for the “10,000 Pairs of Shoes in 10 Months” Shoe Project for Remember the Children. One mom posted on her Facebook status line that buying shoes with her young daughters prompted a great conversation about poverty and geography.
A nurse I know shared the story about the Romanian boy standing in the snow wearing flip flops with her co-workers in the surgery recovery room of our local hospital. The next day her co-workers brought in shoes.
Another woman wrote me these lines:
“Some of my coworkers and I decided to go farther afield than usual for lunch last week. As our route would take us by Target (which is inconvenient from my regular commute), I asked the person who was driving if she’d mind to drop me there to check out shoes on the way back to work. As it happened, my coworkers went in with me too and each donated a bag o’ shoes to the cause! Another coworker found another shoe sale over the weekend and brought me more shoes. And my parents had me pick up some extras on their behalf while I was shopping. You’re right — this blessing thing is contagious!”
The students in a fifth grade class in Virginia have come together and created posters about our shoe project (some featuring the picture of the Romanian boy) and taped them to the walls of their elementary school. They are in the midst of collecting shoes and money for the project. Their aim is to present what they have collected to Andy Baker of Remember the Children in March.
A book is not just a book. Embedded in the book is the opportunity for forming and deepening friendships.
Shoes are not just shoes. Nested in the act of buying shoes is the possibility of forming and deepening friendships.
A community of souls lies hidden in a gathering of soles.