Article Content

FEET GENERALLY ARE NOT BEAUTIFUL. They are smelly, dirty and odd shaped, with bunions, calluses, and who knows what hiding under toenails and between toes. Yet the Bible pronounces, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!! (Rom 10:15)" I teach at a university whose mission is to be a Christian academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in leadership, scholarship and character.1 Recently, a community health student used caring for the feet of the homeless as a class project, fulfilling this mission and exemplifying beautiful feet bringing the good news of God's love. Her efforts snowballed into multiple needs being met for a homeless population.


Sylvia was an excellent student, but as the time drew near for her to plan her Community Health practicum experience, she was anxious. She was not actively practicing nursing like many of her classmates in the RN-BS completion program, so she lacked networking advantages to plan her practicum. After careful thought, Sylvia chose the Good Samaritan Clinic, affiliated with a mission for homeless men located in a poorer Hispanic neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana. Most of the clinic staff volunteer their services, while supplies and medications are obtained via donations and grants.


Part of Sylvia's community nursing experience required an in-depth assessment and development of a care plan to meet an identified community need. Sylvia planned and implemented a clinic focused on foot care for homeless men in the neighborhood. In order to motivate the men to come, she offered a pair of new socks for everyone who attended.


Can you imagine Sylvia as she began to remove the shoes of the homeless men? Removing smelly socks and assessing dirt crusted toes and curled toenails reminds me of Jesus washing the dust-covered feet of his disciples (Jn 13:3-5). Imagine how those men must have felt to have their feet washed, rubbed with lotion and covered with new socks. One man had stasis ulcers on his legs, and Sylvia talked him into staying at the mission to receive care. His legs healed, and he stayed on to provide custodial services for Good Samaritan Clinic.


Upon completion of her bachelor's degree, Sylvia continued to volunteer at the Good Samaritan Clinic, sharing her nursing skills and living out her love for God by serving the poor and needy.


Several years passed, and I again had the privilege of serving as a professor for Sylvia in her master's degree program. She encouraged two other students in her class, Diana and Karen, to get involved with community work at Good Samaritan Clinic. One Saturday, Sylvia, Diana and Karen were conducting a health fair for the neighbors surrounding the clinic and a day shelter a mile away. The waiting room was packed!! To make waiting more tolerable, a video of Bible stories played in English and Spanish. The students were busy checking blood pressures, testing cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and determining body fat, among other helpful things. They even coordinated with another agency to provide prostate cancer screening for these homeless men.


During this time, another bachelor's level student, Leeisha, did a practicum at Good Samaritan and met and learned of Sylvia's work at the clinic. One need that particularly struck Leeisha was for improved diabetic education at the clinic, especially for Spanish-speaking clients. In another community practicum experience, Leeisha spent time with a community diabetes educator. She approached the educator and asked if she would volunteer at Good Samaritan. A plan is underway for a whole team of diabetes educators, including one who speaks Spanish, to spend an afternoon a month teaching at the clinic.


As I reflect on how one student's involvement with the dirty feet of the homeless led to other students getting involved and many needs being met, I realize this was orchestrated by God. He used a Christian university and faculty member committed to helping students change their world, and students willing to go into uncomfortable places, giving them a love for people and a new venue for their nursing expertise.


1 Indiana Wesleyan University Bulletin 2003-2005, Mission Statement, p. 3. [Context Link]