Several years ago I had to fly to Tampa to tape a television show. After I finished, I had the joy of meeting up with two of our missionary alumni. We decided to meet at the food court at a mall located near the airport. The luncheon was at 1 p.m., and I was finished taping by 11 a.m., so I decided I would get in some walking at the mall. My wife is amused that I like to walk in the mall when the weather gets cold or rainy outside. She believes that’s one of the signs you are getting close to death. First you become a mall walker, and then you die.
Anyway, as I was walking, I came by a store called “Fit2Run.” I was intrigued by its layout. It had a small running track in the middle and a health bar in the front. That’s where the clerks fix one of those smoothie mixtures of spinach and broccoli topped off by a banana peel or two and sell it to you as a health drink.
Since my name is Walker, not Runner, and my idea of eating healthy is removing the pepperoni from my pizza, you wouldn’t usually find me at a place like this. I did find it humorous that directly across from this store focused on fitness and health was a Häagen-Dazs® ice cream store (a place where you would have a better chance of finding me). But instead, I entered Fit2Run and was greeted by the shoe evangelist.
I told him I was just waiting for a couple of friends and wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, but I did have a question. When I go to buy tennis shoes (I’m not sure why we call them tennis shoes; we do everything else in them but play tennis), I don’t understand why there are 20 different kinds of Nike® or Adidas® shoes. I know they must have different purposes, but the salesmen at most of the stores where I shop aren’t educated on the difference between them. I guess that’s what you get when you want to pay less for your shoes.
Right away, this delightful salesperson began to teach me about the distinctions in makes and models of tennis shoes. I have never been as mesmerized by a shoe salesman as I was by this guy. He explained that if you see a particular brand and it has colored flakes embedded in the sole, that means the manufacturer has hardened the rubber to provide better support for your arches. If the speckles are missing, the shoe is made for people who don’t need the extra support.
Then the salesman talked to me about my feet. Before I knew it, he had me on a machine that analyzed my soles to show the pressure points. It said my feet need a shoe with Level Four support.
Next, he slipped a pair of shoes onto my feet that would match my exact need. Then he got me on a treadmill and performed what he called a “videotape gait analysis” to analyze how my feet strike the ground in relationship to my body.
Recorded in slow motion while I ran on the treadmill with a camera behind my heel, the tape exposed a problem. My right foot runs perfectly straight, but my left seems to have a mind of its own. It doesn’t run forward but points outward while my insole folds inward.
He drew a line on the screen to show me that in order to realign my feet, I need an arch placed farther back than in a normal shoe. So after all of the foot mapping and video analysis, the results came back that I run like a third-grade girl. I already knew that. For my whole life, people have told me I run like a girl.
But the shoe evangelist didn’t stop there. He took me back over to the shoe displays to show me what models I shouldn’t buy for a foot like mine and which shoes would benefit me the most. I spent about 40 minutes with this young man and thoroughly enjoyed the way he shared his knowledge and concern for my feet.
If there was ever a shoe evangelist, it had to be this salesperson. What impressed me? First, his vast knowledge of his products. Second, his ability to identify my problem. And third, his passion to help me overcome that problem to live a better life.
As a young boy, I learned this verse: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20a NASB). I hope I am as faithful an ambassador for Christ as the shoe evangelist was for Fit2Run. No matter how we spell it, we both have a deep concern for… souls.