Kailey was about to turn eight. When her mom and dad asked her what she wanted for her birthday, Kailey’s request stunned them.
She wanted shoes. Three-hundred-fifty pairs of them, to be exact.
Her parents did not take her request too seriously, but Kailey asked again and again.
Kailey saw a story on the Disney Channel about another girl who collected shoes for children from poor families and Kailey decided that’s what she wanted to do. Kailey thought it would be neat to pass shoes on to other kids who needed them to be able to do the same things she enjoys doing, like go to school and play outside.
So, for her birthday, she asked for 350 pairs of shoes. Her parents posted the request on Facebook and Kailey’s birthday request went viral. The response exceeded their wildest expectations. Kailey was receiving packages and donations every day for weeks after the posting. “Kailey’s Fantabulous Footwear,” as she named the project, collected more than 400 pairs of shoes. Kailey and her family donated the shoes to Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit organization that provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.
Kailey’s parents are understandably proud. Her mother says the lesson in generosity was the greatest gift. “Listen to your kids when they want to do something . . . get them involved in the community, let them come and help.”
“It’s emotional,” Kailey’s proud dad says. “It just makes you feel so good that we’ve raised a child who cares to take care of others before she takes care of herself.”
A little girl’s generosity “tears open the heavens,” enabling the love of God to come down and fill her small corner of the earth with hope and joy. As God expresses his pleasure in his Beloved Son at Jesus’ baptism in today’s Gospel, God speaks his same joy and love in our own simple and ordinary attempts to imitate Jesus’ compassion, justice and reconciliation. May the Spirit we received at our own baptisms continue to move us to do the work of Jesus’ Gospel, to “tear open the heavens” and give voice to the love of God in our homes and schools and communities and churches.