Roast a marshmallow on a volcano. Check.
Turn eleven colleagues from strangers to family within three days. Check.
Cry in front of said colleagues and 300 Guatemalan children. Four times. Okay, seven times. Check, check, and check.
Control my humidity-manic hair with a hat. Semi-check.
Change the lives of children. Check.
Change my life. Check.
I was able to complete this bizarre list (and more) by being selected to attend an adidas Social Purpose impact trip with our non-profit partner Soles4Souls this April. Twelve colleagues from ten different departments and six different cities were chosen to leave their day job, travel to Guatemala and distribute sports shoes in some of the most poverty-stricken corners of the world. During our three days, we visited four different schools and provided trainers to nearly 1,000 children in need.
But first, an unexpected challenge
Before I could embrace the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ahead of me, I had to face a newly found truth about myself.
Not even an hour before finding out I had been chosen for the trip, I had left the cardiologist’s office having learned that a birth defect in my heart had progressed more severely than I thought. The treatment for the defect is open heart surgery, likely to be needed within the next five years; certainly, within the next ten.
Focus on your purpose rather than your challenge
It wasn’t until I was selected for Guatemala that I began to question my obsession with sneakers. I counted my collection: 42 pairs. At some point, I crossed the line from obsession to addiction. And the worst part is, if I am truly honest with myself, of those 42 pairs there is only one pair that I could truly not do without: my running shoes.
Using your passion for good
My running shoes give me a genuine confidence because they give me the sport that has meant so much to who I’ve become. Running changed my life by cultivating confidence, power, friends, and both mental and physical strengths that I could not have achieved otherwise.
That confidence, power and friendships through running is something that we had a chance to deliver when we landed in Guatemala. No matter the school we visited, there was a heartbreaking common thread: the desperate need for proper footwear.
While new shoes are a want for many of us, for these kids, shoes are a need.
As we fit them with a new pair, neither color nor style mattered. The only thing that mattered was that it was a shoe; a shoe that would allow them to walk to school, to play sports, and to be children without worry of injury and disease.
Seeing the shoes come out of the box and onto their feet, their eyes radiated a light within that spread to their smiles.
Each child gave a hug and a thank you before running to proudly show friends their new shoes. I will forever love shoes; however, now, I love them differently. I have seen in the eyes of those children what it truly means to give someone the power that my running shoes have given me.
Knowing that I have a greater purpose in the world, greater than open heart surgery and my own shoe obsession, has left me a forever changed human.
If there’s one thing I learned on this trip, it’s to lead with your heart in everything you do – at work, at home and while interacting with others.You never know how your heart can change your own life – and the world.