A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog called, The courage to know. In that blog, I discussed my first experience, with my friend Kate, connecting with and feeding homeless in Melbourne. It was confronting, perspective building, and necessary. Why do I say necessary? Because, as a man who claims to have a heart for others, I needed to know the truth. I also needed to try to work out how I could do something that would have any kind of impact on the lives of these people. This leads me into this week’s blog and the next instalment of the journey, as I went in pursuit of shoes.

For days after my first experience with the homeless I was agitated. I was trying to work out if and how I could do something. I was confronted by the alarming amount of homeless people and even more distressed by how they were treated by many people, and ashamed to admit even by me up until that moment. I would walk past homeless people, shift my eyes to pretend I didn’t see them, and then bury my head in the sand to the reality of so many lives. In other words, I was treating them as less than human. Yes, I am ashamed. All of a sudden, I knew the truth, and now I want to do something, but what?

My initial thought was to see if I could get a couple of them to talk with me on a podcast to tell their story, so we could create some awareness and hopefully some positive action. I was excited about my idea, and I rang Kate, who was also very positive about it. So, last Wednesday evening I again went into the city to help out, and to see if I could find a couple of people willing to talk to me. I had my podcast gear, but very quickly realised it was not going to be easy to get these people to share with me. There was a key ingredient missing. These people didn’t know me or trust me, and why would they? So, I aborted my plan to interview anyone and decided to connect with them instead.

I met a man named Justin, said hello and he started talking to me. It was very noisy in that room, with over 100 people talking, food being served, Christmas carols being sung, and so hearing Justin, who was very soft spoken, was difficult. I sat down next to him, pulled my chair closer, and leaned in so I could hear him. I still only got half of what he was telling me, but it was enough to be incredibly distressing, to say the least. The injuries he had incurred from being beaten, the inhumane way he and his mentally ill girlfriend had been treated by the authorities, and the miserable existence he was experiencing broke my heart. I simply asked him, what do you need? He looked at me, looked down at his ragged shoes and said, I just need some shoes that will keep out the wet.

From that moment, I was on a mission. I am the type of person who, when I get a bee-in-my-bonnet about something, I am one-eyed. So, I went to the clothes supply area to see if they had any shoes that would fit Justin. He was a size 11-12, but after a thorough search the largest size they had was 10.5, which just didn’t fit, no matter how hard he tried. I kicked myself because I knew I had a pair of shoes at home that would have fit him that I never wear anymore, but I just didn’t have time to go home and get them and bring them back. My mind was racing, what can I do?

Then I thought, I am in the city, there must be a place open I can go and buy shoes from. It was about 6pm on a Wednesday night, and time was limited, and now the rain was starting to fall. Out I went, and for the next 20-30 mins I looked everywhere, but could not find a store open. Then, as the rain was getting heavier, and I was getting drenched, I saw an Aldi. I was sure they would have shoes there, so I sprinted there to check it out. I searched high and low, I went up and down each isle multiple times, I asked one of the employees to check the back, but all to no avail. I had to head back with no shoes, and I was devastated. I really wanted to make a difference for this man, and I felt like I had failed.

When I got back, he was outside just about to leave to go to who-knows-where to spend the night. I was saturated and I apologised to him that I was unable to find him shoes. He was incredibly gracious, understanding, and actually just really grateful that someone would go to that effort for him. Then, I did something you should never do. I gave him some cash to buy some shoes. Did he? I don’t know, but I had to feel like I was making a difference for this man. He shook my hand, he said thank you, and went off to spend his night in the inclement Melbourne weather. I walked away with mixed emotions and a fresh perspective.

So, what’s the point? It is not about shoes, and it’s not about money. I was so busy trying to find the shoes, and then ease my own guilt that I had failed by giving him money, I missed the point until he walked away. Justin would have survived without the shoes and the money, all he wanted was someone to care enough about him to do something. It was the effort and intention that mattered, not the outcome. What a powerful lesson for me, and hopefully for you. When you feel like you are not getting the result you want for yourself or others, you just need to be proud of the effort. I have heard it so many times, but this experience really reinforced it, that people don’t care about how much you know, they just want to know that you care. It was being in pursuit of the shoes that Justin realised that I cared enough to go to that effort for him. For that I feel wonderful.

Just remember everyone is human, everyone has a story, and everyone needs to feel special. This was again reinforced to me in my podcast with Flic Manning, called All day wellbeing, as she spoke about her day-to-day struggle with chronic illness. In your pursuit of shoes this week, just know that it is the intention of the pursuit which means so much more than the outcome. When you make an effort for others, it will mean so much more than the material gain that may come as a result of that effort. Enjoy your pursuit today.