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Some five years ago, a little more, we were in Ukraine in a town an hour west of Kiev adopting our daughter and son. They were living in two separate orphanages or internats as they were called.

Every afternoon my husband and I would travel between the two and every day after lunch when we arrived at our son’s dormitory, roused from his nap he would scramble out of his miniature bed, toy-like and set in a rows straight out of Madeline. He would don a pair of denim overalls too big for his lanky four-year-old body. All knees – and I worried that, wondering if rickets was only for pirates – he would end the ritual by hastily fastening a pair of what appeared to be foam rubber shoes over his stockinged feet. It didn’t matter whether he fastened them or not. They always fell off.

I used to watch this ritual with a combination of amusement and fascination. I grew up with my first pair of baby shoes bronzed and on display. My son never knew that kind of familial folk art. Up until we arrived on the scene, he had little knowledge of anything familial. All he had was his sister, our daughter, who with her goodness kept him alive. For all I knew, he never had real shoes to that point.

That was the first time, sitting there watching our son struggle with what was left of two Velcro clasps, that I had the thought, kids need shoes. You hear it your whole life. Children are starving in some part of the world. Poverty. Natural disaster. War. The reasons don’t matter to the children. I think that was the first time it hit me. The first time I had that thought. Standing there with my new son, in his little foam rubber soles. Kids needs shoes.

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