Socks, God, and foot fungus

I met God last week, and boy, did he have a bad case of foot fungus. I work in a clinic for the homeless, and we see a lot of mental health problems—besides God (who was a bit pudgy), I’ve met a man who believed he was God’s father (although he seemed a tad young to me), another who was, of course, God’s son. In an interesting twist, I’ve even talked to a man who believed he was God’s fiancée—his major concern was planning the wedding. As he explained it, just the seating issues are a nightmare. But I don’t want to mislead you–people don’t come to the clinic to tell me these beliefs. Instead, they come with a health problem, and sometimes, as I smile and nod and examine them, they tell me more about themselves. Our clinic work is seasonal, and, across the nation, we in the homeless world are entering the season of foot fungus. Severe foot crud was God’s affliction that day. This year we’ll probably have a bumper foot crud crop. The weather gets cold, rains come, and no one has an extra pair of shoes or even a way to dry off their damp feet. Unless you’ve walked and slept in the same shoes and socks for ten days, you can’t imagine what it’s like. Killer foot fungus grows, then your skin peels right off and the spaces between your toes crack and ooze. At its worst, homeless foot crud literally can become Trench Foot—a modern resurrection of that plague of World War I soldiers. Most of this misery can be prevented by one simple thing—an extra pair of clean socks. But no one has them. Socks are the kind of simple, practical item that can make a world of difference, but they’re just a tiny bit too expensive, and too much of a luxury to be in anyone’s clinic budget. So why am I telling you this? Well I’m hoping you’ll keep in mind the fact that now is a good time of year, as you’re doing your errands, to throw an extra pair of men’s white athletic socks into your shopping cart. If you can afford it, maybe grab a whole bale of socks at one of those warehouse stores. Take a minute to drop them by your city’s shelter, or soup kitchen, or even your community hospital’s social work office. The people there will know what they’re for, and you’ll likely get a big hug of thanks. Now I know what most of you are thinking, right about now. You’re thinking, hey, this is insane. You’re already overworked, frazzled and exhausted. Even for a hug and a thank-you, how the heck can anyone ask you to go out of your way to take one pair of new socks to a homeless shelter? Why would anyone in their right mind do that? After all, given the horrors of the world today and how much we all struggle to not despair, who really believes that one teeny pair of socks can make a real difference? Well, here’s the reason I’m asking you, and I wish I could show you how it goes—I wish you could be in the room with me the moment when a new pair of socks just appears—ta-dah!–like a miracle from heaven. In that moment, as he wriggles his painful feet into soft white cloth, if you could see the look of joy and wonder on the face of God, I swear it would make a believer out of you.

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