Monday, October 26, 2015

Walk In Beauty Sneaker Delivery - Fall 2015

by Melyssa Holbrook

I feel very lucky to be the coordinator of the Walk In Beauty program.  Is it a paid position?  No.  Does it involve hundreds of hours of time and weeks away from my home each year?  Yes.  Do I love delivering sneakers to children at Navajo Elementary schools?  Yes!!  It is a special opportunity to be able to have the connection to the DinĂ©  people and their land.

The Walk in Beauty sneaker delivery happens twice each year, usually April and September.  On this delivery, we brought 403 pair of brand new socks and sneakers to 15 Navajo Nation Elementary Schools.  That adds up to 806 pair of very happy feet!!!!

Joining me on this trip was my mother, Claudette (her 2nd delivery), and Dan, a first time ANE volunteer.  Having a third person to help, and having that person be a male was a HUGE help (for multiple reasons)!  I remember at Monument Valley School, I was trying to help a 1st grade boy take off his sneakers.  He didn’t want any help.  He wasn’t even saying any words to me, just gesturing with his head.  When it came time to try and put the new socks on his feet, he was really struggling.  His feet were so hot and sweaty that he couldn’t get the socks to slip on easily.  I asked him if he wanted me to do it for him.  He shook his head NO.  I asked him if he would let me help him.  Again, he shook his head NO.  I asked him if he wanted Dan to help.  I pointed over to Dan.  The little boy looked up.  He nodded his head YES!  Dan had never been to the Navajo Reservation before and had never experienced anything like this before.  It was a proud moment for him, that this little boy would accept his help.

Its hard to imagine the NEED in the United States of America, like the need that there is on the Navajo Reservation.  Something so basic as a pair of shoes and socks.  Of the 403 children that we put new socks on,  I would estimate that 90% of them were wearing socks that we would have already thrown away.  Socks with holes.  Socks that were worn so thin, you could see through them.  Some children weren’t wearing any socks.  Not because they thought it was cool, or just chose not to wear any that day.  Because as one boy said “We don’t have those at my house.”  A 4th grade girl at Many Farms School came in wearing only one sock.  And a boy at Mesa View School in Chinle said to me, “These will be the only socks that I have.”
But then there are the happy comments! 
“How did you know that I always wanted new sneakers?”
“These are racing socks!”
“These shoes are awesome sauce!”
“Today is my birthday.  This is a great birthday present!”
“Yay!  My new shoes are finally here!”

The pictures above show the pride and excitement that these children have about receiving a pair of brand new sneakers.  Something so simple.  Something so small.  Do you feel like this when you put on a new pair of shoes?

When we arrived at Black Mesa School, people were outside cooking fry bread and tortillas, and roasting mutton and peppers, for later that afternoon.  It was parent night at the school of 60 students.  Once we had completed the task of fitting 30 students with new sneakers, they offered for us to come eat with them.  It sure was good!

We had even more help at the Leupp and Dilcon schools.  A granddaughter of one of the Elders in the ANE program had approached me earlier in the year and said she wanted to be able to give back to the program that had done so much for her family.  So I contacted her a few weeks before the deliveries to see if she was still interested.  She was!

And then again at Rocky Ridge Boarding School, the Whitehair/Robertson family came to help.  Doing good, makes people feel good.  So the more the merrier!

And then of course, there was the special moment of showing Martin Whitehair the newly published Walk In Beauty – A Navajo Shoe Adventure book, that I wrote and he illustrated!

And while we were in the area, we were privileged to make kneel-down bread with the family!

There are so many good memories of each and every sneaker delivery.  No two deliveries are ever the same.  The experiences at each school are all so different.  At some schools we are in the gym, at other schools we are in a classroom, or the nurse’s office, or the lobby.  Some schools are new, and some are over 40 years old.  But EVERY school is happy to see us come!  At Aneth Community School, a couple of parents came in with their children to thank us and tell us how appreciative they are.  At another school, a couple of the women that work in the lunch room joked with us that they needed new shoes too!  And at another school, a couple of the maintenance men wanted to know what they could do to help, and that they were so grateful for what we were doing for “their kids”.
Of course the kids are the reason that we are there.  And they say the cutest things!

A 3rd grade boy at Black Mesa School exclaimed, “It’s a good thing that you guys always come around here, because we torture our shoes!”.
“These shoes give me extra boost!”
“Wow!  These shoes feel way better than my cousins.  I’m gonna give his back to him now.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter what the children or the adults say, or don’t say.  Their faces say it all!

For more information or to make a donation please visit the Walk In Beauty page of our web site.