Echoes are repeated sounds that fade over time, as they ripple out and become wider from their source. The concept of an echo though can be applied to other things, art is often said to echo an earlier period or artist. Something from years or decades ago can influence an artist in the now.
I was thinking about that a great deal last month when a young man came to my office to help him get his non-profit status for the mission he is on. He told me the story of why he’s doing this new project and it really touched me.
“When I was a boy my mother and I lived at Clare for six years and we didn’t have a lot of money. One day a woman named Becky saw that I needed new shoes and she took me to the store and bought me a couple of pairs. I made a decision at that point that I always wanted new shoes,” said Rikki Mendias, who’s a hometown boy after attending John Adams, John Muir and Samohi.
Those first shoes lit an “obsession with new shoes that lead to me one day having over 100 pairs I wasn’t using.” The need to accumulate is a very human reaction to times of lack, it’s a counterbalance to the intense feelings a scarcity of supplies can cause, for some it’s food, or money, but in Rikki it was shoes.
As Rikki tells me this story, it is with a gentleness and a wonder that we don’t often see in my family law office. His demeanor is so kind and he is so polite and authentically respectful. Where so many go through hard times and come out embittered and angry, Rikki seems to have come out polished into a better type of man. “I thought what if I gave them away to people in need. To help others, like I was helped.” Thus, Becky’s good deed many years ago, begins to echo.
Rikki is a photographer, and as he started to give away his gently worn and unused shoes to people in need, he asked to photograph them in a before-and-after fashion. The pictures are stark. A pair of dirty feet next to old flip-flops, then a shot of new sneakers. It’s a study in contrast.
Those first giveaways sparked in Rikki a need and a drive, which has become HavASole. What started in this young man as an impulse to give back, has become a much bigger raison d’etre. As he has expanded his giving and as donations have increased, others started to take notice. He was recognized by Nikon in their IAMGENERATIONIMAGE campaign. They gave him camera equipment to better his photography and share his story as he traveled around helping people. Rikki’s journey on one trip was captured in a video and is a beautiful two-minute mini-documentary showing the effects he has on the world.
One of the big events had Rikki back at Clare, giving away gently used and new shoes with the support of companies like Galpin Studio Rentals when he needed a much bigger truck to move all the shoes.
Today HavASole is becoming a non-profit that collects gently used and new sneakers from individuals, other service organizations and corporations like Nike to distribute them to those in need.
Forty-five years ago a man saw a need to help people. He pulled together others and formed a new organization called Clare. It has grown over the years to help untold thousands of people. That man’s actions led to Becky being helped, and her good deed lead to Rikki, where the first sound that continues to echo today, through Rikki, and out into a much better world. No one can tell where Rikki’s good deeds will echo to.
HavASole is looking for more gently used and new shoes, and support for their next giveaway on February 28 at Covenant House. If you have shoes or wish to make a donation the website with contact information is HavASole.com. To learn more about Rikki Mendias and his story, watch the IAMGENERATIONIMAGE video on the website, it’s a beautiful piece that echoes the purpose of what was started so many years ago.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.