Roberto Santiago of Portland, Ore., who goes barefoot in solidarity with the poor.

CNS PHOTO | CLARICE KEATING

Roberto Santiago of Portland, Ore., who goes barefoot in solidarity with the poor.

May 13, 2013

Every step Roberto Santiago takes – on numbing winter sidewalks, sharp-edged gravel pathways and feathery grass fields – he walks in solidarity with the poorest of the poor.

For six years, the Catholic in Portland, Ore., has gone without shoes. “It’s just a very small act of solidarity,” Santiago said in an interview.

“It gives me a little bit of a way to stay connected and be appreciative for what I have.”

The World Health Organization reports that more than 25,000 children in developing countries under the age of five die every day from illness or malnutrition that could have been prevented with just a few dollars’ worth of food or medicine.

When Santiago heard that startling statistic six years ago, it troubled him.

One day he felt a strong calling that he shouldn’t put his shoes on.

At first, the calling’s complete meaning eluded Santiago, but over time he has come to understand why it is important.

He sees it as a reminder to be ever thankful and humble.