It’s probably wrong of me to think that Tom’s shoes are annoying. I know that for each pair bought they give a pair to someone in need, and that’s a good thing. Maybe my dislike comes from the fact that they’re kind of trendy, especially in my neighborhood, and also they look like elf slipper socks. Stuff White People Like has a funny little write-up about them.
The other famous Tom for white people is the one who created TOMS Shoes. Every time you buy a pair of these canvas shoes they donate a pair to a child in need in the third world. Of course, instead of buying a pair of shoes, a white person could just donate the money they were going to use on shoes to the TOMS charity and let two people in the third world get new shoes. But that’s not a realistic possibility, not with summer right around the corner.
Salvo contributing editor Hunter Baker has a good (and less flippant) post about them too. I recommend it to you.
This concern for those who are less well-off or who live at a disadvantage to ourselves is, of course, nothing new. Certainly, the desire to aid the poor, the widow, and the orphan is a core element of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In my own generation (and really a generation or two before me), Francis Schaeffer criticized Americans (comfortable Christians included) for their addiction to “personal peace and affluence” and their “noncompassionate use of wealth.”
The buying practices I have mentioned are aimed at curbing the tendency of well-off westerners to consume too casually and perhaps too enthusiastically. There is an attempt to encourage thoughtfulness about the way one acquires consumer items. Buy the shoe that results in a pair being delivered to a poor person in Africa at the same time. Purchase the goods that have been produced in a more humane fashion than the ones that belch forth from a sweatshop. Good ideas.
However, I would suggest another consideration in the way we consume. Instead of merely thinking more carefully about things like the production ethics of things we purchase, maybe we should reconsider our list of things we buy. At any given time, we may have items such as tablet computer, smartphone, new car, bigger flatscreen television, new pair of shoes that accomodates each toe separately, new earphones, new trendy jacket, etc. on our list of wants. What if we reconceived our list to include such things as helping someone pay for their car to be repaired, paying money into a scholarship fund for needy families at a local private school or college, giving a Target or Walmart gift card to a young single mother whom you know is having trouble with her bills, assisting a family with the costs of an adoption, and giving a used car to someone who could really use it instead of trading the car in? The list could be as long as one’s imagination, but the point is really to be sensitive to the opportunities as they occur.