One of my favorite things about TOMS is giving the joy of Shoe Drops to others. This is such an important part of TOMS culture that after the first full year of work, the company pays for employees to go to Argentina - to meet Alejo, to see where the idea for TOMS started, and to hand place shoes on children's feet.
I love this tradition because it's the ultimate reinforcement of why each and everyone of us does what we do. As TOMS has grown, we've increasingly gone from a team of generalists to a team of specialists. Not too long ago, our Creative Agency was a department of one person. Same goes for the Online Department. Now, the Creative Agency has more than a dozen people and the Online Department has folks that spend all day focusing on things like email marketing, paid advertising and affiliate marketing.
The beauty of going on a Shoe Drop is that you instantly feel how you're individually making a difference. Even though TOMS has many more people working in HQ, it's the individual work of every team member that has allowed us to give away an incredible 1,000,000 pairs of shoes. On a daily basis, we might be stressed out, overloaded with emails, or tying up details that don't seem to matter - but they do matter, because of all of our collective efforts make possible the true joy that is putting shoes on kids' feet.
I got to thinking about all this because I got an email last week from Aaron Meiojas. You probably don't know Aaron by name, but it's possible that you've spoken to him on the phone. Aaron works in the customer service department at TOMS and is a big reason that TOMS has so many fans and evangelists. When a customer calls us because their shoes don't fit right, or their package hasn't arrived in the mail, it's Aaron and his team that calmly listens and makes things right. This takes patience and a true giving spirit.
I thought that I would share Aaron's note because it truly touched me. It's messages like this that keep me inspired on a daily basis...
I would like to personally thank you for the opportunity to participate in my first and the most recent shoe drop in Misiones, Argentina. Although I’ve been back for a few days now, I’m still absorbing this life changing experience. It’s nearly impossible to put into words just what this trip has meant to me and my family but I’m going to try anyway. So here goes.
When discussing TOMS to family and friends I frequently get asked “How does the One for One concept work?” or “Are all those shoes really being given away?” Although I could always explain the answers, I couldn’t quite understand the depth of them because I hadn’t truly experienced it for myself. The day I found out that I had been chosen to be a part of this shoe drop in Argentina, I was beside myself with excitement and most importantly pride. Pride not only because I was about to experience a new chapter in my life, but proud because I was finally going to be a part of something larger than myself and make a difference in someone else’s life. And out of all places in the world, I was going back to the country of my origin where my mother and siblings immigrated from so many years ago.
All of these feelings and emotions I had bottled up came to a head when I placed that first pair of TOMS on a child at a school we visited on that very first day. These were some of the most amazing children I had ever met in my life and I will never forget them. Many of the kids we got to know throughout our trip had badly infected feet and clothing in tatters yet the glowing smiles on their faces spoke of the true innocence they still had inside. Although the obvious visual told the story of true pain and the struggles that these children and their families must go through on a daily basis. I had finally realized why we had come so far and what our mission was. It was simple. We were there to give. Give to those that have little and give more to those that have none.
I’ve returned from this journey with a newfound understanding of what it means to be selfless and a part of something larger than myself. I’ve gained a much clearer understanding to the importance of what we’re doing here and why we must continue to nurture and grow our TOMS family so we can keep giving like this for years to come.