The Shirt Off Your Back (Or The Shoes Off Your Feet)

You know those folks that people describe as,”He’d give you the shirt off his back!”?  I love those people. They are always willing to lend a hand, go the extra mile, put someone else’s comfort before their own.

I had a friend in high school who, when we would get in the car on a frigid Rochester evening, turned all of the heater vents towards me. Well, I don’t now what made him think of doing that but it made me feel so worthy.

Am I good enough

I love reading articles about these kind individuals, going out of their way to help those out in the in cold (metaphorically and literally). And people who responded with higher consciousnesss like Balpreet Kaur. This one I heard orally, from Justin’s mom, and I knew instantly that you would love it.

Unfortunately, like many stories, it starts tragic. Near the end of August, in Gates NY, 19 year old Montre Bradley was standing in line outside a shoe store where new Penny Hardaway Nike’s were to be released. He was shot dead and robbed of the money in his pocket he had saved to buy himself a pair. (They cost $300.) His family describes him as “He was a good person… He used to do a lot for people. He’d do anything for people.” (source Montre had recently graduated high school, worked a full time summer job, and was headed to college in the fall to become and engineer. He would be halfway through his first semester by now. 

Justin Morris, a twenty-six year old man from the city, heard about the tragedy. Being an active leader in his church, he thought it was time someone did something about violence on our streets. He never met Montre, but knew in his heart he had to do something to get the word out, to honor Montre’s life, and to inspire the violence to stop.

The Shirt Off Your Back

Justin took three pair of Nike’s from his own closet, just like the ones Bradley was going to buy. He went to the garden store, bought dirt and flowers and planted them inside the shoes and took them to start a vigil outside the store. Following his lead, family and friends added to the display by offering candles and mementos. Justin wanted to spread the message that money and material things did not matter. But life does. Life matters.

Justin says, “We need to start taking the initiative and making steps towards change. If we don’t do it, nobody is going to do it. I figured it would be an incentive to get people out of their beds, couches or whatever to do something about it. People have to come out and talk.”

Justin gave the shoes off his feet. Expensive shoes, not, the old ones in the closet that you don’t wear anymore. $300 shoes. He gave them to honor life, to say that there are things more important that money and the latest styles.

I called Justin to consult him about this post and he told me, “It is in my heart to do things.  And from these thing, I end up looking at the world differently. I will no longer buy expensive shoes, they do not matter to me anymore. Life matters, people matter. It doesn’t matter what I wear on my feet.”

What a beautiful sole! (Pun suggested by Bridget at Twinisms)


Makes you want to give the shirt off your back, doesn’t it? What is stopping you? 

34 thoughts on “The Shirt Off Your Back (Or The Shoes Off Your Feet)”

  1. I grew up in a joint family, Jodi – with my Mom, Grandma, uncles and aunts. I know exactly what you said about the shirt off one’s back (or shoes off one’s feet). I wouldn’t hesitate to do that. In fact, I don’t. It irks me when people wont part with coin change to feed someone on the street – it is so sad!

    God bless Justin. Montre did not deserve what he got. But it is the nicest people who end up with the short end of the stick, no?

    Hugs. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.
    Vidya Sury recently posted..A Privilege Called LifeMy Profile

    1. Maybe not always. I think that is an old discourse. In fact, I think kind people are going to end up on top now. Things are changing!

  2. Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer

    Beautiful indeed Jodi!

    I guess it takes some incident like you mentioned to make people realize and move them. Just as in Justin’s case that led him to give up his costly shoes because he realized that nothing is as worthy as life.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. He has a beautiful heart and will help us all break down the barriers around our hearts, so we can, like Louise says-sing!

  3. Justin , Im so proud of u and I love being your Mother…..Jodi great work , we must come together and work hard show, love and kindness .
    Donna Johnsoon…….Justin’s mom…..

  4. It’s a very beautiful story. Justin is a great man who has been raised in a great way by his parents. I think that the more you look back in times, the more you would find people like Justin. They are becoming rare now because however the parents are trying, the media is stronger. Parents are giving up teaching their children that it’s life that matters and not the latest game or pair of shoes. Media and advertising, comparison made with other children and the availability of everything everywhere have killed the most important values of life.
    Nikky44 recently posted..Suicide? Why?My Profile

  5. Thanks for sharing this story, we hear so many tragic and unfair stories that we need the balance of hearing about heartfelt actions. Who knows how seeing what Justin has done will impact on others… how they think and how they view the world may never be the same.

  6. Wow…not often I am just totally speechless, but this post has me gobsmacked. To see the full spectrum of what value is placed on human life in this example is humbling and frustrating and makes one want to cry out “Why, God?” But, to focus on Justin’s end of the spectrum (which, I imagine would also be Montre’s) I get a renewed sense of faith and hope. Thanks for sharing such a hard post, Jodi. (And to Justin’s mom…thank you for raising the son you did.)
    Greg at Tiny Bit Better recently posted..A Tiny Bit Even More Authentic-erMy Profile

    1. i am sure Donna was glad to hear what you think. I love things that turn taken for granted things around. It is just a matter of meaning–how we see things.

  7. That’s a tragic yet heartwarming story Jodi. We get so caught up in our own lives that we continually forget that other people matter and that we are all connected. I loved what Justin said “It is in my heart to do things” – I’ll take that away with me today x

  8. Jodi, thanks for posting this. I work down the street from where this boy was shot and it touched everyone in our whole community. I am so happy to read that there are good compassionate people still in this world. For every bad Im still hearing more good come of it. It gives us hope in a time of despair. There is also a store close by called Villa that is trying to make awareness to people to open bank accounts and use debit cards so people don’t have to carry so much cash. Its truly amazing to see people care!!!!

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