By: Brian Harper
Community Outreach Coordinator
Today, July 18, marks the first Nelson Mandela International Day since the passing of the holiday’s namesake. Mandela, who died last December at the age of 95, was the first democratically-elected President of South Africa. Before his presidency he spent 27 years incarcerated for his fight against apartheid, the racially-based governmental system that precluded black South Africans from political representation in their country. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mandela’s friend Desmond Tutu and other rare figures throughout history, Mandela had the aura of a living legend, a personified reminder of the heights to which people can reach in the name of human rights, justice and peace.
While I was a student at Marquette University, I spent a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I taught reading, English and guitar lessons at two primary schools in Nyanga Township, studied under brilliant and fascinating academics and activists and dove into lush and diverse scenery, including gorgeous Table Mountain and the mammoth Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Traveling to and living in other parts of the world does many things to one’s perspective. For me, it was a reminder of how small our planet really is. This is especially true with the relatively recent advent of Internet-based communication and globalization. In a matter of moments, I can Skype friends in Peru, instant message acquaintances in Spain or tag former South African classmates in a Facebook post. Though it is easy to get caught up in one’s own routine and small circle, it is helpful to remember that we live in an interdependent world that is more connected than we even know.
Stan’s Fit For Your Feet has been in the Greater Milwaukee area since 1950. We are proud to be a family-owned and locally-operated business. That does not mean, however, that other parts of the world do not impact our work and vice versa.
Many of the shoe brands we carry are designed by companies halfway across the globe; Ziera from New Zealand, Pikolinos from Spain and Jafa from Israel are just a few examples. Because we emphasize a one-on-one, personalized way of doing business, we are close friends with people living in other countries and working for these companies.
We are also tied to other parts of the world through our Share-A-Pair shoe drive. This initiative allows us to work with Soles4Souls and send the new and gently-used shoes we collect from our customers to people in need in Haiti, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Tanzania, as well as to individuals at Repairers of the Breach daytime shelter and Father Gene’s Help Center in our Greater Milwaukee community.
According to a USA Today article, Mandela Day was unanimously approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009. The Nelson Mandela Foundation Initiative said the day is meant to encourage people to “take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time.”
At Stan’s Fit For Your Feet and New Balance Milwaukee, we strive to do work that helps people. Sometimes that means sending shoes to people in need in our community or around the world. It also means supporting fantastic organizations and causes like Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Hunger Task Force. It can even be something as seemingly simple as providing footwear that brings a customer greater health and comfort on their feet or that allows them to take their own “small step” to help someone else.
Like so many others around the world, we are grateful to Nelson Mandela and other heroes who inspire us to direct our efforts toward others’ well-being, for reminding us that every “small step” we take (and the shoes we’re wearing while we take those steps!) can come together to improve our world.