The Barefoot Autism Challenge

I can’t remember when or where I first heard of it, but when I did learn of the Barefoot Autism Challenge, I immediately thought of art museums.  Not that I am a fan.  They make me feel claustrophobic.  When I do visit one, I rationalize that there’s only so much I can absorb.  So I rush in and fly through the place, taking in a handful of paintings and a few sculptures, and sure, they’re fun — but all the while, I sense the ticking clock.  And then I rush out.

To be honest, I have no idea why the Barefoot Autism Challenge sparked the thought of art museums.  Although I do recall the first time I ran the Ft. Worth Cowtown Marathon, how right by the starting line there sat a low concrete building with a plaza in front and a forlorn statue.  After the race, as I walking back to the car, I looked up and saw the place again. Stared for a moment. Wondered if they’d let me in without shoes (Cowtown was my first barefoot marathon).

Maybe when you take on a challenge, it shakes up your thinking.  Lets loose some new ideas.  Arguably that’s the whole point. So maybe that’s why I had the strange inspiration to go back and visit that museum. 

By way of background, the Barefoot Autism Challenge is the brainchild of Tyler Leech, an individual with autism who lives in Iowa.  He explains that he prefers to go barefoot because the natural stimulation of feet on ground helps him process information about his surroundings, which can be a challenge for autistic people, who may experience sensory impressions differently from others.  The premise of the Challenge is simple — go somewhere barefoot for the experience, then post a picture on social media to show support for the autistic community.

Recognizing that barefoot is an unusual mode of dress, I went out of my way, as I prepared for this first experience, to make a good impression.  I dressed up in stylish jeans and an expensive fitted shirt (the kind I used to wear during my banking days).  Traded my Yankees cap for one with the logo of the Dallas Cowboys (the better to fit in with the local crowd).  Rehearsed answers to all the questions I thought might be asked.  And then, on the appointed day, freshly-showered and cleanly-shaved, I strode in confidently through the front door.  And was immediately intercepted.  And shown right back out. 

I demanded to see the manager.  A few minutes later, there emerged a portly gentlemen in a navy blazer.  He was courteous and very patient.  Explained, “It’s the law.” Talked safety, too — when they move the art around, small tacks might fall out from the frames. 

I could think of nothing to say in response to such nonsense.

On the way back to my car, a woman observed how lovely Texas weather was, that you could go about barefoot in November.  This comment made me smile. But, I am a stubborn man.  I vowed I would return.

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The Barefoot Autism Challenge