Letter to the Editor: From JOY International

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Dear Editor,

Something happened to me the other day that I thought you would like to know about.

My name is Dr. Jeff Brodsky. I am staying on the island for 16 days while writing a book I’ve been working on for several years. I am the President/Founder of an organization called JOY International. We are devoted to rescuing children around the world who are forced into the child sex trade. I live in Colorado in the USA and I have been totally barefoot for 955 days. You can read the reason why on my website at: www.joy.org

It was quite the adventure for me as I went into town early (about a 3.5 mile ride by golf cart from where I am staying). There’s a restaurant on the beach called The Blue Water Grille I was going to have breakfast at, so I parked the golf cart and went around the corner on to the beach. When I walked back to my cart, lo and behold I was robbed. What was taken would not have been a big deal to most people, but it was a very big deal to me. It’s strange how sad I was over what was taken because it’s something I very rarely use. It was my sandals. Today is my 954th day of being barefoot. During these more than 2½ years, there is only one thing I’ve put on my feet… those sandals. I only put them on when I absolutely have to and usually for no more than a minute or two. It’s really something that would be trivial to most, but so special to me.

As soon as I got back to my cart I noticed they were gone. I had not worn them since being here and I only had them with me in case I needed them (that’s why they were in the golf cart). A street vendor saw something was wrong and came running over to me. He said he saw a man take my sandals and knew who he was. He suggested I go to the police and another local artisan who was there actually went with me. I gave a report (even sharing about how important the sandals were to me and why). When they asked me if I wanted to press charges if the man was caught I said “No, I just want my sandals back.” After sharing about the work of JOY International the police were amazed at the work we do and especially about my barefoot journey and understood why the sandals were meaningful to me. They said they would do whatever they could to get them back, but couldn’t make any promises. They took my phone number and said they would call me if they find them.

As I drove back to the place I’m staying at, I made a decision. I said, “If I have to buy new sandals today, I’m going to end my barefoot journey after 1,000 days (April 15). If I get my sandals back I’ll keep going barefoot indefinitely.” When I got back to my place I was ready to write and put this episode behind me. Lo and behold, about 9 hours later my phone rang. A woman introduced herself as Marleny, the Director of the Tourism Board of San Pedro Island. She asked if I was Dr. Jeff Brodsky. I said I was and she said she had my sandals and I could come and get them. I was so excited! I asked where her office was located and it was directly above the exact spot where my sandals were taken. When I got there she said she heard about what happened (from the street vendor). She immediately put her personal “tourism police” into action. They were the ones who found the man and got my sandals back. I was elated to say the least. When she asked me what I was doing on the island it gave me an opportunity to share about the work of JOY and the book I was writing. She asked if I was going to write anything bad about the island because of what happened. I assured her I would only be sharing it with a few friends and family and that I would most definitely write something nice in the book about completing it in San Pedro. She was ecstatic… but I was even more so, as I brought the sandals home.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I did not see something bad (although the thief who took my sandals could really hurt tourism here), but I saw something very, very good in the wonderful people of San Pedro. From the street vendor on the corner where the tourism board is, to the artisan who went to the police department with me and of course, the wonderful police and tourism board. The kind, caring people of Belize were willing to do whatever they could to help someone who they didn’t know and with something who to many would seem insignificant.
I experienced the beauty of this island the moment I arrived. I experienced the beauty of it’s people when they reached out to help me.

A very sincere thank you to the kind, caring and wonderful people of San Pedro, Belize!

Dr. Jeff Brodsky
President/Founder JOY International
www.joy.org

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