The Red Boot Story is the story of everyone.
It's that struggle between wanting to fit in and wanting to be unique.
It's that struggle between wanting to be yourself and wanting to be liked.
It's that struggle between being afraid and being free.
It's the story of courageously stepping outside of cultural stereotypes and social norms to live fully into your biggest and boldest self.
No matter your gender, political persuasion, nation of origin, religion or economics, we have all struggled with our human condition...this wondrous and at times frustrating dance between love and fear, joy and despair, hope and apathy, purpose and emptiness.
An Accidental Start
The idea started by accident and in a very small, quiet kind of way. In 2010, Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run International, gave a TEDx presentation where she began the speech with an innocent-enough story about a pair of...yep, you guessed it...red boots.
Molly, a self-proclaimed "bad dresser" and "fashion nightmare", would have never considered wearing something so bold as red boots. "Fifty year old women do not wear red boots," she recounts the story in her speech. Molly's daughter Helen disagreed; and so she purchased a pair of the "youthful" boots and presented them to her mom for her 50th birthday.
Molly wore them to her TEDx talk and so began the red boot journey. Since the historic wearing of the red boots, Molly can't go anywhere without someone asking about those darn boots. She has received hundreds of red boot tales from countless men and women. Pictures of red boots started showing up on her Facebook page and in emails...most accompanied by a tale or two of how my red-boots got me through--you name it--mothers dying, chemotherapy, divorces, the death of a child, first jobs, first dates, coming out, retiring, growing old and having babies--to name a few.
The Boots Go to Work
But it wasn't too long ago that Molly really set the boots to task. It was June of 2013, when Molly launched out on a new adventure to see if she couldn't perhaps bring some of that red-boot power to America's political arena. "Disarmed" with red-boot courage and that unmistakable red-boot joy, Molly marched into Washington hoping to engage our political leaders in a dialogue that might bring more love and compassion onto Capitol Hill, with a new program she was founding entitled "Run 2 Lead."
After nearly a year of trying to make it go, Molly made the very difficult decision to pull the plug on the project.
She writes, "And so, without seeing it, I was slowly but surely, lowered into the DC culture of fear. I began to measure my words. Watch what I wrote and said. This red-boot-wearing, joyful, open-hearted and fearless lover of people began to shut down. My fearless and at times irrational pursuit of seeing the good, the positive, the potential in all people and circumstances began to disappear and be replaced instead by a kind of cynicism. One I hadn’t known, EVER...And then I remembered who I was before all this started.
The Molly who smiles at people, confidently walks into a room, laughs freely and often, dances frequently and unabashedly with my teenage daughter through the aisles of the grocery store, wears her pajamas to the drug store when she is sick, loves to hug people and is driven not by money, economics, winning or politics, but by a big, bold, audacious love that invites others into its fierce and fiery warmth."
And so, Molly talked to the people who knew her best, her sister, her children, her mentors and decided that it was time to surrender, to give up and let it go.
A New Path Emerges
The heartfelt response Molly received was overwhelming. Hundreds of people responded with compassion and understanding. The Red Boots reappeared. Pictures of them, in all shapes and sizes along with a lot of "atta girls" came pouring in from all over the world.
"The outflow from people...people I didn't even know...was unbelievable."
The message was loud and clear. "Stand strong. Stay true. Be yourself. And love, love, love. Never ever forget the love."
So, Molly decided to venture off on her own to get to the root of what drives this "us versus them" mentality. In August of 2014, she drove from Charlotte to Las Vegas and back, interviewing hundreds of Americans about our nation's conversations on politics, religion, race, sexuality, gender and economics. (You can read all about it on the blog starting here.)
Upon her return, she realized her encounters on the trip had been the heart-driven, open dialogue she longed for but was lacking in our communities. After several weeks of soul-searching she wrote the Red Boot Eleven Steps and the accompanying meeting script based on these experiences.
And So It Begins
(for real this time)
In late October, 2014, Molly led the first-ever Red Boot Meeting at a small Charlotte diner called Another Broken Egg. The deep and explorative sharing necessary to shatter the highly polarized "us versus them" perspective ensued, and a new way of talking and leading emerged.
So as with all things red-boot-powered, a big, bold, audacious love cleared the space for something more powerful, authentic, and transformative than anyone could have imagined.
The Red Boot Coalition, a space for honest sharing and compassionate listening that changes how we see and engage with our world.
Join us, won't you?