moments, three young children lost their mom, a husband lost his wife, and a beautiful family lost their daughter and sister. Understandably, it was impossible for anyone to see a miracle rising from the ashes of that day.
But in the aftermath of Meg's death, someone hung a pair of shoes on the road sign near where she was killed. As the day and week wore on, that single pair of shoes grew into a shoe memorial overflowing with them. Today, nearly five years later, runners from all over the world continue to visit Meg's memorial and add their own shoes. Only today, those shoes don't mourn her death as much as they celebrate the hope and new life Meg's story has inspired in thousands of people. Most of whom never met her.
I am one of the inspired. I am also one of those who never met her.
In 2013, the year before Meg died, I ran less the 20 miles the entire year. In 2018, I ran over 1,200 miles. In addition to running and a renewed focus on my health, I have a rejuvenated appreciation for life, much of which comes from a deepened relationship with God. I hung an old pair of shoes on Meg's memorial as one man. Today I write about that moment as a completely changed one.
And the most beautiful part about my story - I am but one miracle out of hundreds that Meg's life and death has given birth to.
Part of my miracle has been this website and the stories I've been able to share through my writing and podcasting. Earlier this year, I was blessed with an opportunity to share an interview I did with Buddy Teaster, CEO of Soles 4 Souls. I said at the time the interview changed my life. I was certain my miracle was about to grow.
In that interview and in Buddy's book: Shoestrings: How Your Donated Shoes and Clothes Help People Pull Themselves Out Of Poverty, I discovered how Soles 4 Souls is using shoes I and you and others don't want to bring miracles to parts of the world that long ago quit believing in them.
In Buddy's book, one of the very first stories he shares is about a group of 150 Hondurans who were kicked out of their community because they weren't a great image for their city - the city of El Progreso - home to about 300,000 people. These people were carried from the bridge they were living under to the center of a palm forest and told to live there. Even though the group had been living under a bridge, the bridge was at least familiar to them. Now, nothing was home. What little they once had was now gone.
The following excerpt from Buddy's book talks about the birth of a miracle in these people's lives:
“The city decided these people, living in hovels, were not a good image for the city. So they picked them up and moved them out into the center of a palm forest, and told them that they could live there,” said Ty Hasty, of Soles 4 Souls partner 147 Million Orphans. Minimal as it was, the bridge had been their home. But now they awakened daily in a strange place all over again, with no clue of how to survive—and no help from the authorities that had put them there. They were out of sight, and would be quickly forgotten.
Ty’s organization was already on the ground providing relief, coordinating its efforts with the help of Sister Teresita Gonzalez, the founder of an El Progreso orphanage. One morning, she took Ty to Monte de los Olivos, the area to which the people had been forcibly relocated. Ty saw destitution at a level difficult to describe. “They had no clean water. There was nothing to eat. And I said to Teresita, ‘All these people are going to die.’ She said, ‘Yeah. I know.’”
Today, Olivos is a different place. Ty’s organization helped residents dig wells—and build twenty-nine homes, a school, and a community center—together with Hearts2Honduras, another Soles 4 Souls partner. “The biggest difference is in the people’s faces,” Ty said. “There’s hope.”
But in spite of the physical security this young community created, one question loomed: could it build an independent, sustainable future? Raul Carrasco, founder of our micro partner, World Compass Foundation, says they’re “at the point of creating that opportunity.” Based in El Progreso, Raul, with Soles4Souls' help, opened a micro-enterprise in 2014, supplying shoes to micro-businesses—which, in turn, helps villagers disrupt the cycle of poverty.
In my conversations with Buddy, he told me story after story about how Soles 4 Souls is transforming lives all over the world with shoes and clothing we no longer want.
While talking to Buddy, I couldn't help but make the connection to how a runner's life is transformed when they get a new pair of shoes - how critical those shoes are to their health and well-being and hope as a runner. I couldn't help but make the connection between the miracle that came from that first pair of shoes I put on Meg's memorial, the miracle in my life and in lives all around me. I began to grasp, maybe even dream about, how truly possible it was for Sole 4 Souls and their partners to use shoes, even old shoes we no longer need or want, to paint hope into lives from which it had long ago vanished.
And I was more reflective than ever on the truth that running had run a miracle into my life, and like a baton handed off, maybe it was my turn now to run with those miracles into someone else's life.
So this year, I'll run with that miracle baton. I'll begin taking steps to direct my running journey toward Soles 4 Soles and all they do. I'll start a running team called Running 4 Soles. I'm still figuring out what that means - exactly - and what that miracle looks like, but I've always been about taking an informed leap first and figuring the rest out as I go.
Some initial goals I have this year that will keep me invested in figuring it out:
There's a lot to be worked out along the way. These are ideas born in early conversations with my friends at Soles 4 Souls. But I know God has put this vision on my heart. I believe He wants to show me miracles so I can share them with others. Miracles that might come in the shapes and sizes and colors of shoes, but look and sound and feel like God.
I need to tell you one final story about God calling me to this place.
Earlier this year, after reading about the displaced Honduran people in Buddy's book, I began hearing about the caravan of people coming up through Mexico and approaching the United States. Obviously, there was a lot of conversation and news and differing opinions around this group. I got to researching this caravan, trying to figure out where they came from, how they got started, and it turns out the caravan started with 160 people leaving Honduras.
I thought back to the story from Buddy's book. One hundred fifty Hondurans expelled from their city. It became clear to me I wasn't in the middle of a coincidence. God was clearly speaking to my heart. And as usual, his conversation had a theme.
One common question I kept hearing people ask when discussing this caravan was "would you let these people in your house?" But God kept saying to me - that's the wrong question, Keith. The right question is: are you willing to go spend time in their house?
God's question worked on me for days. I'm going to tell you - I was once fully committed to never visiting a place like Honduras. I love my safety and security and all the comforts I've inherited as an American. But all of a sudden, inexplicably really, as if driven there by a miracle, I was on the Soles 4 Souls website researching the quickest way possible for me to visit Honduras.
And so now I have to go. I have to answer that question - am I willing to go spend time in their house?
I have to see the miracle of shoes working in their house.
So that's the beginning of my story. I invite you to come along on his journey. Whether it's hearing the stories, collecting some shoes, offering financial support or joining me on a trip to Honduras - I invite you to tag along.
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Life is like running.