Recently, I was appalled by a piece in The Southwest Community Connection. The purpose of the column itself is benign enough: A recent transplant to the City of Roses explores local small businesses and grades them on customer service, customer satisfaction and a pleasurable customer experience using what she calls a sincerity scale.
In the August issue, the columnist wrote about her experience with a local shoe repair shop (Hillsdale Shoe Repair: great service, great fixes, Aug. 1). She explained why she needed to visit the shop with a story about swing dancing, in which she states, My husband always has trouble finding shoes of any kind that fit right and are comfortable. One day, he picked up a pair of shoes he found sitting on a wall outside of a church and brought them home.
Nowhere in the story does she question why those shoes might have been placed on the wall outside of a church. She only worries about whether or not they were worn by anyone with icky foot crud.
Portland has one of the largest homeless populations in the U.S. Many of the local churches have stepped up by offering food, clothing and sometimes even shelter to those in need. Those shoes that looked brand new probably were intended for someone who needed shoes to wear, who might not own an intact pair.
The blind privilege of well-off people so unconcerned about others that they dont even question why a new pair of shoes might be visible on private property (the wall presumably belongs to the church), dont consider whether someone might have need of those shoes or even if someone misplaced their shoes and they were left on the wall for the legitimate owner to find them, just astounds me.
Editors note: We shared this letter with Georgina Young-Ellis, who writes the monthly column Searching for Sincerity, and offered her the opportunity to respond in print. Her letter follows.
Humor came across as insensitivity
In response to a letter by a reader who was, with good reason, upset by my comments in the August Searching For Sincerity piece, I do apologize.
In my attempts to be humorous, I came across as insensitive to the needs of the homeless by making light of the fact that my husband found a pair of shoes outside of a church and that I objected to him taking them, not because someone else might have used them, but because I was afraid they were not clean. I actually try to be very sensitive to the needs of the homeless and donate clothing, food and money toward services for them whenever possible.
It probably doesnt make a difference that the shoes were actually found outside of a church he and I used to attend in New York rather than in Portland, since the needs of the homeless there are just as dire as they are here. However, again, I apologize for my insensitivity and any offense it may have caused.