Tell your story about giving and inspire others to live generously.

I Like Shoes for Artis.

Submitted by Iain (Grand Rapids, MI)

While on a layover in Chicago, I made a new friend and bought him some shoes!

It was late summer, 2008 and I was flying through Chicago on my way to South Africa for my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. I’d never been to Chicago before and, having a seven hour layover, I thought I’d catch the train into the city and wander around.

I’d been in a similar situation in London the year before and had ended up having dinner with a man I like to call “the vegan beggar.” That’s another story for another day but what I had learned from it was that if you’re in a foreign city and need a friend, homeless men are your most likely bet for a short term companion.

As I wondered through the fabled city of Al Capone, taking in the magnificent architecture and the bustle of city life, I found myself crossing a bridge on which a man sat begging. Since it was about lunch time, I asked him if I could buy him lunch. I had in mind a nice restaurant – something on the river – but he clearly didn’t think I intended to be that generous. He took me up on my offer but, when I told him we could eat anywhere he liked, led me to a cheap, hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint.

Artis was his name and as we walked I noticed he had a limp. When I asked him about it he explained that he had corns on his feat (callouses) and that his shoes were no good. As we bought lunch for just a few dollars I thought about how much I could help him and came to a decision – I would buy him new shoes! When I told him so and he got really excited. He led the way to a Footlocker store and, once inside, I told him to get whatever he wanted.

I walked nervously around the store, biding my time as he browsed the pairs of shoes. At the time I was 24, fresh out of college and making eight dollars an hour working at a smoothie store. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had recently sold my car I wouldn’t have had really any money to speak of at all, so spending a hundred dollars on a pair of shoe was a big deal for me! When Otis settled on a pair in the eighty dollar range I gulped a little bit but was happy to be able to buy them for him. The store clerk had figured out what was going on and must have thought I was ridiculously rich. He literally shook my hand and said “Whatever you do man, I wanna come work for you.” If only he knew!

We threw in a pair of new socks and then took a trip to a drug store so Otis could buy some razor blades to cut the corns off his feet. I sat next to him by the river as he did so, throwing the dead skin over his shoulder and in to the water below. It was uncomfortable to watch to say the least but there was something deeply moving about watching him do so and knowing that I had helped ease some of his pain.

Later that summer I went bungee jumping from the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. Both helping Otis and bungee jumping cost me about a hundred dollars and they were the only two things I really “splurged” on that summer. Bungee jumping was fun and I’m proud to be able to say I did it but if I had to pick only one of those experiences, I would pick helping Artis in a heartbeat. Spending money on myself is nice but spending money to help someone else is so much better. My time with Artis is something that I will never forget and it is so satisfying to think of him walking the streets of Chicago in his new, comfy shoes!