Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If the shoe fits -- give it

This city appears to have a 'sole' after second person donates footwear

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New Canadian Lani Vergara has no doubt she's living in Friendly Manitoba. The proof was right outside her classroom window this week. What she witnessed was like a movie, she says.

Vergara, who came to Canada from the Philippines in March, is taking classes downtown.

She plans to be a health-care aide. She finished an exam Wednesday, stood up to consider her answers and looked outside. The scene that was unfolding had her grabbing her iPhone to capture the moment.

"I saw this guy walking barefoot," says Vergara, 30. "I said to my classmate, 'Who is this guy?' It was three degrees and he had no shoes."

It's what happened next that gave her the chills.

"This guy came along on his bike and he just stopped. He took his shoes off and gave them to the barefoot man. Then he drove off in his socks. I was calling everyone over to the window. I was almost crying."

The cyclist, she says, was a man in his late 40s or early 50s.

He was not now-famous Winnipeg Transit driver Kris Doubledee. In fact, Vergara hadn't heard of the altruistic Doubledee, who stopped his bus to give the shoes off his feet to a barefoot man he saw on Portage Avenue last week. His act of charity made headlines around the world and resulted in a trip to New York City to appear on a television show.

"I learned about him after this scenario," says Vergara. She's in class every weekday morning, has an hour off and then heads to her job at a call centre. By the time she gets home at 7:30 in the evening, she's tired and still has to study.

"I don't have much time for the news," she says apologetically.

She says the cyclist's actions and the barefoot man's response will always stay with her. "It was a heart-warming scenario. I think the barefoot man is not in his sound mind. He's covered in dirt. He wiped his eyes. I'm guessing he was crying."

By then, a crowd had gathered at the second-floor classroom window.

"My instinct tells me 'capture it, capture it,' " she says of the grainy pictures she took. "I just wish I'd thought to video it. It was like a movie."

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. How many barefoot guys are wandering around downtown? Is this the same guy who got Kris Doubledee's good leather shoes last week? Is he starting a collection? Running a scam?

I'll throw some questions back to you: Does it matter? If someone is moved to help a needy stranger, should we judge the good deed? A man is barefoot. It's cold. He hasn't asked for anything. His need for shoes is met and the moment is over.

Some of you think it does matter, and that we should be suspicious of this guy. Some of you would give a stranger the shoes off your feet if you felt they needed them more than you. What Doubledee did and what Vergara reported has me considering how I react to people holding cardboard signs at intersections. I make snap decisions and I'm sure sometimes they're the wrong ones. All I know is this: If you choose to help a stranger, it takes nothing away from me.

In the past, Vergara wouldn't approach a homeless person. She says that's changed. She wouldn't want to be left barefoot on the pavement.

"If I have a car or I have a bike, I would do the same thing," she says.

"Good karma comes around. If I give someone my shoes, that's karma. It comes back to you."

I called Doubledee and told him what happened on Donald Street. He wasn't surprised.

"I just wish this would continue so people would be in a good mood," he said. "Let's keep this going. People don't do this to be recognized. They do what their hearts tell them to do."

If you think Doubledee, the cyclist and people like them are suckers, keep your shoes on. Vergara believes in karma. Doubledee believes in goodness. I believe they're both right.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 A8

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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