by Father Mark Goldasich
Can you guess what common item was issued a patent on April 10, 1849?
I’ll give you a few hints. It can be used to fix a drawstring, stop static cling on a skirt, clean a saltshaker, hold curtains shut, remedy a wardrobe malfunction and keep pairs of socks or gloves together.
Still stumped? OK, here’s the giveaway clue: Before disposables, this item was used to hold diapers in place on babies.
If you answered “a safety pin,” you get a gold star.
Isn’t it amazing how the smallest items often have the biggest impact? Here’s another example:
Several years ago, an expensive laboratory jet was approaching Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. When the pilot tried to lower the nose gear, it didn’t respond.
The copilot traced the issue to a faulty relay panel. Recognizing the problem, he hunted around for something to bypass the relay and activate the nose gear.
Eventually, he found a paper clip and bent it so that it bypassed the problem and triggered the nose gear. It worked perfectly, saving the jet from a crash landing.
At that moment, for that special job, the lowly paper clip was more important than all the rest of the sophisticated equipment on the plane. (Found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “The Sower’s Seeds.”)
Yes, sometimes the most ordinary items can have the greatest impact.
This past weekend, our religious education directors announced a new initiative for the parish that will not help our students, but will benefit those living in poverty in some 26 developing nations. And the best thing about this fundraiser is that there’s no baking, volunteering, buying or selling involved. It centers on something used every day, but most likely taken for granted: shoes. Now, through the end of June, my parish will be collecting shoes to be sent around the world.
Shoes are so much a part of our lives that we even have an expression in English: “as common as an old shoe.” According to the “Dictionary of American Idioms,” the phrase means, “not showing off; not vain; modest; friendly to all.” Those are wonderful ways to look at our shoe initiative.
And I’m certain that the directors’ announcement hit home. After Saturday evening Mass, I noticed Mary Beth, one of my parishioners, heading — barefoot — out of the building. When she saw my surprise, Mary Beth pointed to a tub outside of the religious education office. Inside were her shoes, the first pair to be donated.
Seeing my amused expression, she said, “Hey, Father, I’ve always hated those shoes! I’m glad to get rid of them for a good cause!”
I told Mary Beth’s story at the Sunday Masses and already more shoes have started to appear in that tub to keep hers company. Heck, she even inspired me to finally part with six pairs of old shoes — some coated with dust — that I’d been hanging onto for no reason.
Jesus certainly understood how simple items could have a big impact. That’s why so many of his parables and teachings center around things like seeds and farmers, cups of water, vines and branches, lamps, yeast, salt, sheep and shepherds, riches, and, of course, bread and wine.
This Easter season is a time for Christians to spread hope and joy. Common acts of love and service can have an uncommon effect on the recipients. Look for creative ways to touch the lives of others: donate used books to the library; give a cold drink to your mail carrier; bring your co-workers a treat; plant a tree or flowers; use less plastic; write an encouraging note to someone; compliment waitresses, waiters or cashiers; or start a piggy bank for a charitable cause.
And don’t forget about those shoes! My parish will happily take your donations. Our street address is 1100 West St., and our mailing address is P.O. Box 539, Tonganoxie, KS 66086. If you have questions, you can send an email to Nancy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennifer at: email@example.com.
But we’re not the only ones interested in your shoes. A story in the Feb. 26 issue of The Leaven featured Jerry Hudgins, a parishioner of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Church in Topeka. Like my parish, he, too, is collecting shoes. Unlike us, however, his donations will be distributed locally around Topeka. I’m sure he’d be happy to take donations as well. His online contact information is: www.solereason.net. You can also reach him by phone at (785) 338-2965 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, if you’ve got some new or gently used footwear that you’re not using — or you just hate — just “shoet” it to Jerry or my parish and help us to “defeet” poverty, one “sole” at a time.