The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
SPU trend comes from faith and purpose
By COURTNEY MILLAN,
Published: November 12 2008
It was spring quarter and freshman Ben Climer was questioning everything he did.
He made a bold decision.
"In a fit of spontaneity, I took my sandals off and threw them into the bushes," he said.
Two years later, Climer hangs his sandals from carabiners (hooked metal clips) on his waist. His feet are still bare.
A small group of students like Climer has been sporting bare feet around
campus for its own various reasons.
Junior Lynn Jansen also started going barefoot in her freshman year. The nursing major would wake up late for her 8 a.m. classes, she said. She didn't have time to get ready, so one day she showed up for class in bare feet. No one told her she had to wear shoes, and from then on, she didn't. She found it more comfortable.
Other students began going shoeless before college.
Junior Julia de Boer, a visual communications major, has been going barefoot her whole life, she said.
De Boer grew up on a farm in Ferndale, Wash. She and her five siblings wore shoes for chores and church, but other than that, they went bare foot.
Megan Stearns, a sophomore majoring in linguistics, has also been going without shoes since childhood.
Stearns is from Spokane, Wash., and enjoys hiking and climbing barefoot in that area.
"Puddle jumping is also a lot more fun without shoes on," she said.
Comfort and feeling are issues in deciding not to wear shoes, but they aren't the only issues.
Last school year, at the beginning of winter quarter, a group of eight students started going barefoot on Mondays. Monk Mondays was part of a larger idea of living monastically.
Their inspiration came from the film "Brother Son, Sister Moon" about St. Francis of Assisi.
Franciscan followers didn't wear shoes, so it seemed like a good idea, sophomore Nate Rogers, one of the original Monks, said.
Rogers, an English major, said bare feet serves as a physical reminder of the focus of the day: Loving God and loving others.
"When you focus on God on the first day of the week, it sets a tone for the rest of the week," said sophomore Lexie Hoffman, another participant in Monk Mondays.
Hoffman, an art major, started a form of Monk Mondays at Whitworth University last year after hearing about the one at SPU, but at Whitworth they didn't go barefoot. She transferred to SPU this year and found out that this group of monks is shoeless.
"Oh, my gosh. These people are so hardcore," she said.
Hoffman said going barefoot is a reminder to be thankful and a sign of humility. One blessing she mentioned, especially for those without shoes, is grass.
"Grass is like God's natural shag carpet of the world," she said.
Climer, a theology major, also sees a spiritual aspect to going barefoot. He sees it as an extended metaphor.
"It's a metaphor for saying I'd rather have the scary, free, unsafe God than the teddy bear God that keeps my feet warm," he said.
That said, there is a point when the weather can get Climer to wear shoes.
"If it's snowing outside, I'll put my shoes on," Climer said. "It's a metaphor, but I'm not an idiot."
If it's below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, Stearns said she will wear sandals at least and de Boer said she will generally wear flip flops if it's in the 40s or 50s.
Sandals or shoes must also be worn in certain other situations.
Stearns said she got in trouble in Gwinn a lot last year. Hoffman almost got kicked out of Subway, but she was allowed to get a drink and leave. Climer keeps his sandals with him so he can put them on when he needs to.
Gwinn and other food establishments require shoes or sandals although there is not a specific state regulation on the issue.
In a 2002 letter from the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Health, Mary C. Selecky, found at http://barefooters.org, it said, "In general, the 'dress code' required in various private and public facilities is based on individual facility or company rules, and not due to state or local regulations."
"Wearing shoes in a restaurant is a standard practice," Lance Lafave, Campus Dining General Manager, said. He cited safety as one of the reasons behind Gwinn's policy of "no shoes, no service."
In classroom situations, de Boer said most professors are fine with barefoot students, although shoes are required in chemistry labs.
Climer spends time barefoot in the library.
Not all the barefoot students recommended taking off all footwear.
De Boer didn't recommend going barefoot, but said to try it if you want to.
Stearns recommended it, but said you need to go through a process to toughen up your feet. It takes time for the skin to adjust, resulting in calluses in some cases.
The toughening up process takes about a month and a half, Climer said, although you never get used to it entirely.
"It opens up a whole new world," Stearns said.
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