It's hard not to be overwhelmed with all the difficult things going on in the world. Sure, terrible things have always happened, but thanks (?) to social media and the 24-7 news cycle, now we all hear about them all the time. Richard Hudgins is an example of how to react to heartrending news: Pick an action, be it ever so small, and go with it. Do what you can, how you can, in your own way. 

Hudgins is forgoing shoes for a year so that he can raise money (and draw attention to) the 300 million kids worldwide whose lives are limited, sometimes permanently, by the fact that they don't have shoes — a requirement for schools in many countries and as needed foot protection in all kinds of extreme environments where lack of shoes can lead to a lifetime of issues.

His fundraiser, aptly titled NoShoesForAYear has, so far, netted more than $6,000 and he has sent his first batch of 52 shoes to kids who need them. He started on Dec. 9, right before the first snow of what has been an unusually snowy and cold year in the eastern United States. Based in Louisville, Ky., Hudgins is a clean-cut, friendly young guy who made a commitment — and he's sticking to it. (You can follow all the funny reactions from folks as well as foot injuries over at his entertaining-yet-ouch-inducing Facebook page.) 

Why going barefoot? Why in this way? He puts it succinctly on his fundraiser page: "I have a choice. They don't." And his choice has been incredibly effective: He's made it to the front page of Yahoo! news and has been covered by a half-dozen news stations.  

Hudgins says local businesses, once they've been briefed on why he's shoeless, have been incredibly supportive of his cause — and shoelessness in general. He's attended a wedding, gone grocery shopping, and worked at his job at a local hair salon without much negativity. Though it isn't all easy: "It is very awkward, and it's kind of humiliating — in a way I don't want it to be. I know I'm doing it for a good cause," says Hudgins. And he adds (this made me spring a tear!): "As hard as it is, it's probably one of the best things that I've ever done."

OK, now I feel like I need to take my barefoot running to the next level. Though I can't imagine being so uncomfortable all winter, being so cold-footed that I need wool socks in three seasons.

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Man goes barefoot for a year to help shoeless kids
We all do what we can, but Richard Hudgins goes the extra mile (sans shoes!) in his yearlong project.