I did not know to send my shoes to Paris but here they are, virtually. Even the Pope sent a pair of plain black dress shoes; UN Secretary General Ban Ky Moon sent a jogging pair.
Type, condition, or owner is not the criteria. Solidarity of the human spirit is.
20,000 pairs of shoes arrived in the Place de la République in support of the activists who were not able to march at the UN climate summit. French authorities banned large outdoor marches in light of the recent terrorist attacks.
Activists turned to the compassionate response for terrorism is never a match for compassion, a truly revolutionary act. Compassion connects. The world sent shoes and then, hundreds of thousands in cities across the globe marched for those who could not.
In solidarity, there is awareness, a sliver of light where there once was darkness. That is change.
Black Bears of Florida, here are my shoes.
Activism did not stop the black bear hunt. It was a mismanaged slaughter as predicted. The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) sold over 3,700 hunting permits for the “harvesting” of 320 bears. In less than 48 hours, 298 bears were dead. As of this writing, the final bear death total is 304.
There had been no black bear hunting in Florida for 21 years. The population was considered endangered but in recovery. No one knows the total number of black bears in Florida. Most agree it is around 3,000, including the FWC who sold more hunting permits than the estimated number of bears.
The continued presence of activists did shut down the hunt five days early. They gathered at kill reporting checkpoints to monitor the hunt as well as to photograph and record bear data. And yes, they posted the data on social media. It is still getting attention.
Black bears found a way back from being an endangered species only to discover they are refugees in their own land.
In Tallahassee, there was a Requiem for Bear ceremony. When there is reverence for life, there is a spark, a way to begin anew. Increasingly, pairs of occupied shoes are coming to Florida courthouses and county commission meetings for the rights of black bears.
Seminole County is enacting an ordinance outlining specific requirements for humans to do their part in living with bears. Sponsored state legislation for 2016 will help municipalities cover the costs.
Virtual connections as well as person-to-person contact allow the issue the light of day. Solutions appear and disappear. Not all are feasible. Increased awareness results in increased opportunities for connection. That does work. It is how change occurs.
Syrian refugees, here are my shoes.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees have died in Syria, and millions are fleeing. Numbers are fluid but an inter-agency group reports over 4.2 million “are persons of concern.”
I am reminded of a Flannery O’Connor short story, “The Displaced Person.” The title reflects a well-known and often-used term for WWII refugees. Themes of this story—bigotry, racism, xenophobia—are evident in every day events across the globe. We connect to them virtually.
Of late, America has given fear center stage. All of it is spew, the stuff of authoritarian regimes, so similar to what the refugees are fleeing. They must wonder what to do, knowing death is certain if they stay and life is uncertain if they go.
When it comes to refugees or any “displaced persons,” we wrap ourselves in labels—hold up our signs–so there is no doubt as to our identity, provided we are able to spell it correctly.
Hiding behind a label keeps us from making the compassionate response. We forget labels reveal not only who we are but who we are not. Our fear and paranoia crackle and pop like the short-lived flames they are, ever in need of an outside wind.
The compassionate response arises from the stillness within. It thrives on our connection to one another. That we are human is label enough. The compassionate response is the thoughtful tear on an ember of fear. One is all it takes before there are two. Solidarity of the human spirit is that basic.
Humanity, here are my shoes.