A pair of shoes

By Marissa Roberto
November 14, 2016

Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906


A single pair of shoes.

A single pair of shoes survived a journey of over 2,000 miles.

2,000 miles of scorching hot days and bitter cold nights. Days and nights that never seem to end. That go on and on and on.

2,000 miles of grassy paths and muddy trails. Of rocky streets and never ending railroad tracks.

2,000 miles of shoelaces lost. Of soles worn in. Of deep holes forming by the toes. Of stones being lodged in uncomfortable places.

2,000 miles of protecting what little money was left. Of being the hiding place that no one found.

2,000 miles away from their family and friends.

2,000 miles away from poverty. From violence. From worry and fear.

2,000 miles of leaving their footprints behind. One after the other.

2,000 miles of a dangerous journey any pair of shoes could ever embark on. On a journey they have chosen.

2,000 miles of being that lucky pair of shoes.

But not every pair of shoes is lucky.

With the reports up until the end of October 2016, the Department of Homeland Security found that 59,692 unaccompanied minors left their homes of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to travel to the United States, only to be caught at the border. They were children traveling alone.

59,692 pairs of shoes put under lock and key.

The children leaving their homes can be as young as four.

A four-year-old. A child who can barely form understandable sentences. Who does not really know the world they are a part of.

A four-year-old child walking thousands of miles away from their families. Away from their childhood.

A four-year-old child who may not know how to tie their shoes.

Where these children are growing up, there is an immense amount of poverty. They feel they need to help provide for their families and come to the conclusion that traveling to the United States trying to find economic opportunities is what is best for them. These children are also growing up in areas that have an overwhelming amount of gang and violent activity.

They feel threatened to walk alone on the streets. Scared their families will be the next targets. Scared they will be the next gang recruit or rape victim. Scared they may be the next one dead. So, they make one of the hardest decisions of their young lives and decide to flee.

It was estimated that well-over 75,000 minors would be making the journey to the United States this year alone.

Only approximately 60,000 were caught by the United States border patrol so far this year.

What about the other tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors out there? Lost and alone. Walking. Running. Hiding. Protecting themselves. Taking a risk that not many their age would have the courage to do.

What about the other unlucky shoes?

Many of the journeys may have ended short but some may be continuing strongly today.

Many Americans are unaware of the conditions these children face each day, not only in their home country but on the journey they take to seek safety.

Americans see them as individuals who are, “invading our country,” and, “doing harm,” and, “taking away our jobs.”

Why are we so quick to judge? So quick to point fingers and call people names? So quick to make assumptions that are not even true?

These children are suffering. They are being forced to grow up and provide for their families. To find safety if that means leaving everything they love. Even if that means wearing only one pair of shoes.

We Americans need to be educated on why these children are fleeing. We need to not be ignorant anymore and try to help find a solution to this mass increase of undocumented minors.

With the election being over, and the new president-elect opposing open borders, it is a difficult time ahead for these children. A difficult time for their stories to be heard throughout the government.

We Americans can help them. We can be their voice when they are not present. We can share their stories. Share their nightmares. Share their worries. Share their thoughts for the future.

How many more shoes need to be locked away or lost forever before their story is heard?

Marissa Roberto

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