Perhaps it seems from the title that I am implying I dislike feet. Actually, I don’t really have a problem with feet. Without a doubt I enjoy the occasional pedicure, and I love bare feet in the summer. Feet are feet, like my ears – they need a little extra attention sometimes, but mostly they can be left alone. I’ve participated in several of JUSTembrace’s foot clinics, and haven’t been too freaked out by others’ feet. Sure, it’s not my favorite. I’d rather have you over for dinner, or throw a birthday party for you. Any day. For the first time, though, the full impact of what the foot clinic really means hit me full force. I get it. It took six or seven foot clinics – but I finally understand the importance. We need these foot clinics in Uptown, and they are a very real part of what JUSTembrace is all about.
We had a great group of volunteers this last Saturday at our foot clinic – and there were four of us ready to get scrubbin’ on some feet of the people in our community. Our first guest walked in right at 10, and I had him sit down in front of me. Right away he told me he was slightly disabled, from the waist down, and his knees were especially bad. So much so that he can’t actually reach his own feet, and showers with his socks on because he can’t take them on and off and needs to be able to slip his shoes on when he goes out. This man lives alone in a men’s hotel, and said his neighbor sometimes helps him put on some new socks. He let me know how nervous he was, and that he talks when he is nervous. Needless to say, we had running conversation the fifteen minutes I was working on his feet.
If you haven’t guessed, my guest’s feet were very dirty. Lint, dirt and grime covered his entire foot and in between the toes. Sorry for the “graphic” language, but they were by far the worst pair of feet I had experienced in all the foot clinics that I had been to. As soon as the socks were off, as we continued to talk, I plunged his feet into the warm, soapy water and started washing his feet clean with the washcloth. Looking up at him, I was struck with how imperative this was – to him, and to me. Just a soak in some sudsy water. His toes needed to be clipped, his legs lotioned, but more than anything, the dirt needed to be washed off of his feet, and a clean pair of socks put on. Maybe even more than that, he just needed a safe place for that to happen.
That experience didn’t mean so much to me because I felt good about myself afterwards. Honestly, I had a hard time eating my lunch because the smell and sight of the feet I had washed a few hours ago still lingered in my mind and in the air. It mattered so much because I realized how important that foot clinic time is for the community. It’s a place anyone is welcome to come, have a conversation, have their feet taken care of, and leave feeling a little bit fresher and clean, and a little bit more dignified. No one can see anyone else’s feet. No one knows if your feet are dirty or clean, only you do. Only you know the feeling of toe nails that are too long, pushed up against your winter boots. Only you know the feeling of not being able to reach down and remove your own socks before you take a shower. What an intimate opportunity we have to wash another persons’ feet.
After several foot clinics I finally “get it” – and I really hope that we are on the upswing of vounteers, so we are better able to advertise and promote the foot care to more and more community members. I encourage you to keep coming back if you have come to one, it took me many a pair of feet to understand the depth of what was going on in that fifteen minutes of foot care. I encourage you to step out and attend your first foot clinic this month (February 18th), even if you are not ready to care for feet. There are other ways to be a part of our time!
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