Millions of people lead a life immersed in such poverty that it's impossible to experience the destitution by walking in their shoes, which is why Richard Hudgins decided it was time to take his shoes off - and not put them back on for an entire year.
The number of children across the world who don't have something as simple as a pair of shoes is staggering. When Hudgins learned that TOMS Shoes asks people to spend one day shoeless to understand their plight, Hudgins decided 24 hours wasn't enough.
On Dec. 4 Hudgins took off his shoes with the goal of going barefoot for 365 days.
"I don't really know how much you can get out of one day so I thought, go big or go home," Hudgins said. "My biggest concern is just to inspire others."
Hudgins created NoShoesForAYear.com where people could donate to his cause. He's hoping to raise at least $25,000, which he will likely donate to Nasha Ministries, an organization that helps children in Kenya get off the streets and escape poverty.
"They can't go to school without shoes and these kids have never had shoes," said Hudgins, who plans to go to Kenya to help distribute shoes to these children.
Only a couple of hours into his quest, Hudgins realized going barefoot would be more difficult than he thought. After running a couple of errands in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., the embarrassment he felt walking shoeless into places of business nearly caused Hudgins to scrap the idea altogether.
However, when he arrived home and checked on his donation site he found that one person had already donated five dollars.
"It was really nice to see I that inspired someone," said the 28-year-old hairstylist, who is approaching the two month shoeless mark. "I'm still going strong. I'm pretty proud of it."
Hudgins receives curious looks whenever he's out in public and says his wife is still adjusting to his project, but he hasn't really found himself in many confrontational situations.
To let the curious know why he's shoeless, Hudgins rolled up his pants and wrote "JUST ASK" on the cuffs.
Employees at some retail chains told him he wasn't allowed in their businesses without shoes, but once he explained to the manager why he was shoeless they understood and let him walk about his way. (Hudgins says it's not a health code violation to be barefoot in restaurants, it's simply a dress code policy enforced at most businesses.)
Mother Nature hasn't been as accommodating as local businesses.
The recent cold snaps haven't made wandering outside pleasant. Hudgins will spend extra time looking for parking spots that are close to his destination and he'll often be seen running through parking lots to lessen the amount of time he spends in the frigid temperatures and on icy concrete.
"It is cold," Hudgins said. "The snow isn't the coldest part. We had -18 degrees wind chill for days."
Worse than the snow, Hudgins has found, is the salt that crews liberally spread on roadways to melt the snow. The pellets dig into his soles.
As bad as winter has been, Hudgins says he's more worried about the summer, when the sun can superheat the asphalt to sole-scorching temperatures.
"Shoes are a luxury and I will never take them for granted again," Hudgins said.
Hudgins may not be the only person concerned with pavement heat come June. He says several people in the Louisville community have joined his quest - at least for a day or two.
"It could be as cold as possible and people could laugh as much as possible, but I've never had a negative day," Hudgins said. "If you do things to help others and you do things to make yourself feel good you won't have negative days."
To donate to Hudgins' cause or simply follow his quest, head to NoShoesForAYear.com. He also has a Facebook page (Facebook.com/noshoesforayear) and Twitter handle (@NoShoesForaYear).
Along with trying to bring shoes to poverty stricken children in Kenya, Hudgins is also working for people closer to his home. He's collecting shoes to be distributed within Kentucky. Donations can be sent to his place of business:
Wild Hairz Salon
6234 North Preston Highway Suite D
Louisville, KY 40229
Members of the Care To Click community are encouraged to do whatever they can to aid Hudgins' efforts. Also, don't forget to visit the Care To Click Children Page to donate a free click or print useful coupons. At CareToClick.com, your small actions prompt our donations to organizations that help children in need.