Two years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, a group of volunteers and myself hosted the first ever Sole Care Foot Clinic in Uptown. This was before JUSTembrace. This was before 4942 North Kenmore Ave. This was before Emma the Intern. This was before the Board of Directors. This was before family dinners or holiday parties.
Two years ago, dozens of community members got their feet cared for in The Preston Bradley Center in the heart of Uptown. It was a huge success and was, in fact, the catalyst for the creation of JUSTembrace whose birth happened a short month later on Christmas night in a McDonald’s.
Today, after two full years of nearly monthly foot clinics where hundreds of feet in our community have found rest and rejuvenation, I did something I have never done before.
Today I attended the foot clinic as a guest.
As I have had growing opportunities to provide training in different places around the country this fall, I’ve shared some significant practices that I have found to be critical in incarnating in a community. One of those practices is the practice of powerlessness. Today’s experience was truly an example of practicing powerlessness, and I’m grateful for what I learned.
As I sat down in front of Julie, and placed my feet in the warm soak, I didn’t feel relaxed as I expected. I felt trapped. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t get up and walk away. I couldn’t leave. As Julie took one foot in her hand and began to wash it, I was immediately made aware of how our feet really carry so many nerves. I felt everything. I feared everything – was that washcloth clean? Were those clippers sanitized? What if she cut my toe nail too short? As Julie chatted away, I tried to place myself in the mindset of one of our typical guests. I sat there deeply aware at the amount of trust the members of this community have given us. I thought inviting people to dinner in our home was a big deal – but asking them to place their feet in our hands? And making it sound like we’re doing them a favor? Wow. Such vulnerability. Such intimacy.
Now, I love pedicures like most women, so this wasn’t the first time I had my feet in someone else’s care, but this was completely different. First, I wasn’t paying Julie. I had no reason to expect her to honor my comfort above her own. I was aware of all the other needs around her, the many distractions that could leave me exposed and without a sense of completion. I also felt the eyes of those around me acutely. I have really large feet for a woman, and everyone in that room saw. Potentially humiliating. This experience was nothing like the occasional pedicure I enjoy so much. I was eager to get my socks and shoes back on and found little relaxation.
What I’m struck with tonight as I reflect, still feeling the greasy effects of the Vic’s Vapor Rub between my toes, is the grace this community has given us for two years. I knew, theoretically, that to attend a foot clinic was to trust us and to be in a vulnerable position, but I had no idea just how much trust was needed and how deep the vulnerability could go. I guess, most of our regular guests have had so much of their dignity and privacy jeopardized that it’s possible our foot clinics restore dignity and honor vulnerability more than I realize.
Regardless, I am so grateful I sat in the receivers chair today and allowed myself the experience of being cared for by the JUSTembrace foot clinic crowd. This is an experience I hope will help me lead our team to continue to love our neighbors with dignity, respect and tremendous love.