McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Growing servant leaders from the ground up is the end goal of a hands-on lesson in compassion Tuesday at the Lawson Early Childhood School in McKinney.
“This event has been so amazing,” says principal Susie Towber, as hundreds of students were fitted with new sneakers, part of a day of service organized by international nonprofit Samaritan’s Feet in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“They’re learning about empathy, they’re learning about hope, they’re learning about caring so that in the future they’ll be able to give to somebody else,” said Towber.
“We want to be able to touch the next generation with hope,” said Myth Pickett with Samaritan’s Feet.
The volunteers started with washing the students’ feet. While it’s biblical, Pickett says the gesture is also an intentional way to connect with the students.
“Modeling what Jesus did,” says Pickett. “This isn’t about being privileged or being underprivileged: it’s about bridging the gap of humility and making a model example of what servant leadership looks like and that’s how we live generously and how we thrive in the community.”
Organizers say the hope is one day children who were given extra shoes, will remember those in the world who have none. And there are many.
“We’ve been in a 108 countries and we’ve served 7 million kids around the world,” adds Pickett. “In other countries, a new pair of shoes means `I can actually get an education’. He also points to the diseases that children in poor countries contract because they are forced to walk on contaminated soil without shoes. “Kids sometimes make shoes out of old bottles. We take those bottles off of their feet, give them new shoes so they can run around, and provide them with hope.”
The youngsters with huge smiles to match their spiffy new sneakers can perhaps one day change the world, but on this day it’s also okay for them to just be kids.
“Most of them told me they could run faster now than they’ve ever run before!”, says Towber. “And they’re really proud of that. But, really they look into the eyes of volunteers and they know people care about them.”
The crisp new shoes will only last so long, so supporters hope that as they grow out of them, they will grow into big dreams: starting by writing– or sometimes sketching– them on a Samaritan’s Feet Dream Board.
“We give kids an opportunity to write down what they want to be when they grow up,” says Pickett. “When you’re sitting there washing the feet of a 3, 4-year-old kid. They’re looking at you, saying ‘thank you’ and you’re getting all emotional because you’re like ‘wow, they’re just shoes’.”
Thrivent Financial sponsored the McKinney school event.
Samaritan’s Feet plans two more at area schools this week in honor of MLK.