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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Foot Washing

The Miami Herald recently reported that on March 24th, volunteers at the First United Methodist Church of Miami took part in the annual Homeless Foot Washing for the homeless. In a long-running, and ever-growing, pre-Holy Week tradition, church volunteers emulated the biblical example of Jesus Christ, who humbled himself before his Apostles by washing their feet on the eve of the Passion, by washing the feet of the homeless in the church's open-air courtyard.

The symbolic act has also proven a good, practical opportunity to alleviate some of the ills of homelessness, which is hard on mind and body, especially the feet. Scores of homeless received foot exams from podiatric students and faculty from the Catholic-affiliated Barry University. About 20 students and doctors provided treatment for foot ailments from the commonplace — ingrown toenails and calluses — to thornier medical issues like fungus, ulcers and infected wounds.

Every homeless person also left with a hot lunch, new socks and a new pair of brand-name shoes, provided by Soles 4 Souls and Running with Sole, two volunteer groups that collect donated footwear.

The First Methodist foot-washing, which started 21 years ago with a small group of volunteers, has become one of the largest, having about doubled in size in the past two years, the pastor said. First Methodist, which traces its downtown origins to 1896, serving the homeless has become a central mission and a point of pride.

Winston, a 46 year old Miami homeless resident, walked out happy, shod in gleaming new sneakers. "It was very nice — corns gone, nails trimmed, feet clean,'' he said, grinning. "I'm good to go.''
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