But this time, with spring just around the corner, I needed to get away from my journalist’s plain boots and get some classy-looking heels befitting my profession.
This happened just three days before I went down to a portable unit at Reno High School and found my newly dressed-up feet buried in hundreds of Hefty trash bags filled with 25 pairs of shoes each. These collected shoes were the efforts of some tenacious teens looking to help out the victims of the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes in a program called Soles 4 Souls. The sight was overwhelming as program coordinators Brian Williams and Reno teacher Crystal Johnson literally climbed onto a mound of bagged shoes. Tribune photographer Debra Reid had a good time trying to keep her balance on some bags as she did her usual amazing job of capturing the scene.
Though none of the students were present, as it was spring break and Williams and Johnson were offering us an inside peek at the results of their work, I was touched by how compassionate these teens were to get their school and their community rallied for such a cause. I actually began to feel guilty for buying my own new shoes, though I’ve already worn each pair several times, because I’ve now contributed to the statistic that more than 2.5 billion people buy new shoes every year in the United States. I don’t even want to think about how many people throw away perfectly good shoes, myself included, every year when they could be contributing to programs like Soles 4 Souls.
But for me, this is more than about applauding these kids for their good work. They absolutely deserve the praise for taking initiative and collecting 28,000 shoes in partnership with Damonte Ranch High School teens. Inevitably, that gut-wrenching guilt gets the best of me and I ask myself, “Why don’t I become a part of that effort? What’s really stopping me?” And I always justify it with, “I’m a reporter; my job is to report the facts, not get involved.” Consolation for that rationale is hard to find, too. Just because I’m a reporter doesn’t mean I’m not human.
I do think, however, that whatever hinders each of us from giving of our time and resources to help others in need is really no excuse. Lately, I’ve tried to give back to the schools in my own small way that doesn’t conflict with my responsibilities as an education reporter. In fact, I’m seeking more ways to do that. I’ve attended several career fairs to introduce young students to the world of journalism. I do regret that if it weren’t for a scheduling conflict recently that I could have read stories to children at one school that requested the Tribune to come in. These are just trifles of volunteer time and gestures and probably mean more to the teachers and staff rather than the students, but they’re such a valuable and worthwhile cause to invest in because more than just one someone did that for me when I was a student.
That’s why it’s so important for these students to do what they have for Haiti and Chile. The effort teaches them the spirit of giving back. After all, if the shoes they’ve collected just sit there, what was the point of them getting involved at all?
Jessica Garcia is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.