Titanic Museum Attractions has partnered with Samaritan’s Feet to serve thousands of people. They just had one of their first shoe distributions, so hear from a volunteer on what he experienced below.
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Sometimes, an experience comes quietly, unlooked for, and produces in us a new, powerful awareness. Such an experience occurred for me, my fellow Titanic Museum Attraction crew members, and for hundreds of Boys and Girls children the other day, all because of Samaritan’s Feet CEO Manny Ohonme and his vision of gifting shoes and encouragement to millions of children worldwide.
Titanic Museum Attraction co-owner Mary Kellogg Joslyn predicted we were in for a powerful experience as she introduced us to Manny. “We’re going to touch your hearts,” she said. And then Manny inspired us with his story of growing up in Africa, experiencing firsthand the extreme poverty and the terrible effects of not even having shoes. “Millions of children in Africa and across the world have no shoes and they get parasites. Can’t go to school,” Manny told us. “We remind them not to give up on their dreams.”
Then, that very afternoon, my fellow crewmembers, and I were allowed a rare interaction with hundreds of Boys and Girls Club children: an exchange built on trust.
Yes, Manny says, smiling. “They get new shoes.” But there is more. They are acknowledged as precious individuals of potential and worth.
As each group of children enters the room, we all applaud, cheering. I suspect the experience must have been even more special for the children because we were all wearing our Titanic Museum Attraction uniforms: the men dressed as officers and the women as First Class maids. Some of the children seemed surprised and quietly excited as they filed in. Each took a seat facing an officer or a maid.
The first child I helped was a blond-haired boy of about nine. “I want to be a fireman,” he told me as he shoved his foot expertly into the new sock I was holding for him. “Firemen are cool, and I want to be one.”
First Class maid Mags shared with me her exchange with a boy, eight-or nine years old. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” she asked him. “Everybody laughs at me when I tell them what I want to be,” he confided. “Well, what do you want to be?” Mags asked him. Smiling shyly, he told her. “An archaeologist.” One of the girls I helped confided that she wanted to be a doctor. She radiated intelligence and the calm discipline we often see in physicians. Manny had said to us, “You might be putting shoes on the next governor, scientist, physician, or president.” And yet I believe we all knew that each child was special, no matter what they might become.
Even for the briefest moment, these children allowed us the gift of trust. I thought this was such a special way to understand a connection with the 135 children sailing on the RMS Titanic. Our new exhibit honors the children and their families, most of them immigrants. Often referred to as dreamers, these parents risked everything to give their children hope and opportunity for a better life.
In our museum, guests understand that life begins with baby steps as they view the fragile shoes worn by ten-month-old Alden Caldwell as his parents did their best to keep him warm on the lifeboat.
And then there is Brynjar Karl in our movie room, reminding us that we are all in a lifeboat together, the lifeboat called humankind. As a ten-year-old boy with autism, Brynjar accomplished his dream of building the world’s largest Lego Titanic, which guests can admire in our Discovery Gallery. Yes, giving and receiving—hope and encouragement—all an important part honoring the experience of families and children onboard Titanic. My fellow crew members and I join Mary Kellogg Joslyn in thanking Manny Ohonme’s Samaritan’s Feet for allowing us to participate in this most noble of human experiences: the interaction between the giver and the one who receives.