When Ben Hedblom was a freshman in high school, he made a bet with his Spanish teacher that he would wear the same pair of shoes through graduation day. Whoever lost the bet would have to shave his hair and eyebrows off.
Since then, Ben's teacher, Adrian Antonini, left his position, but the bet took on a life of its own. Determined to uphold his side of the agreement, the Land O'Lakes student wore his Nike Shox throughout his four years at the Florida school, enduring toe exposure and using plastic bags to keep water from soaking his feet on rainy days.
But a remarkable thing happened during the process. Ben found that the shoes started to define him. People treated him differently because of the tattered Nikes -- some offered to help him, while others made assumptions about his economical status. But in the end, the reactions had a positive effect on the 17-year-old.
"It made me think less of what other people think of me. And it made me approach them and talk to them. And they got to know me as a person. That goes way past the physical experience," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "I've learned a lot about self-image. You are what you believe you are."
Ben will be graduating soon, and hopes to retire his shoes in a trophy case. As for the bet, his former Spanish teacher will hopefully keep up his end of the bargain. "I'm shocked," Mr. Antonini said. "I don't even remember the bet. But I'm sure I made it because that's the kind of thing I would do."