Tom McNamara knows the importance of listening. So much so that he’s decided to spend his golden years listening to complete strangers from coast to coast. And while he does that, he’s going to outfit their feet, too.
As a special needs teacher in Illinois, McNamara spent his entire career listening to people that few others paid attention to. When he retired two years ago, he wanted to keep making a difference in people’s lives: “I wanted to continue doing something, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do,” he told David Karas of the Christian Science Monitor. “I bought some socks and handed them out in my local area, and I got a fabulous response.”
That simple act determined McNamara’s future plans. He sold his house, bought an RV, and embarked on a cross-country mission to deliver new socks to homeless people, while also drawing attention to their plight and serving as a sympathetic listener to them. Living off of his retirement funds, he’s already given out 4,000 pairs of socks in 17 states and doesn’t have any plans for stopping. He raises some money for the footwear from friends through a GoFundMe account and makes impromptu negotiations with store managers for bulk discounts as well.
“My goal is to draw attention to the homeless, to have people realize that they are human beings [who] want to have conversations with us,” he told Karas. “They want to feel like they are in the same place as you are, and that’s why I do it in a traveling mode.”