1863 miles. 111 days. 27 blisters and 1,000,000 tears later Mexico became a reality. The Canadian border greeted us with rose filled gardens, colorful 'welcome' signs and smiles. Mexico met us with desolate desert, barbed wire, and rifle bearing border patrol officials. Hmmmm. Certainly says "Hi there, welcome home" to me.
When I began this trip the only expectation I had was to walk every step of the way. By the end of the trip, I know some people were disappointed in the fact that although I walked until I could not walk any more, I opted to bypass the more extensive rural areas. The decision did not come lightly, especially since with the falling off of steps, the media fell off as well. Disappointing as it was, this trip was not about the media. It is not a Lynn McPherson walk, nor a Guinness World Record walk. It is a homeless awareness walk.
The cows and rabbits inhabiting America’s amber waves of grain need not be educated in the fine art of homelessness. They are already homeless. They will always be homeless. They had no interest whatsoever in what I was telling them, so why bother?
I could have, and actually did start out walking each and every step of the way, trusting that Google Maps would not mislead me. Wrong. On day one, the beloved mapping system had me taking a 4 mile detour for what should have been a football sized stretch. Had I gone the route of Google Maps, the walk from Medford, Oregon to Redding California would have taken an extra four weeks. Now as much as I am an avid lover of four legged creatures, two legged creatures are of much more importance to me.
Had I continued to literally walk every step of the way, I would have spent about 4 hours walking through Seattle; two or so hours walking through Tacoma; three hours through Portland. Even Los Angeles would have gotten only four hours of our attention. Bypassing the fruited plains allowed days, not just moments, in each city to meet with the homeless, interview service providers for the homeless, and to educate the public on homelessness.
I can tell you that had I taken my time, and merely enjoyed the lovely scenery of the west coast, I never would have met any of the 50 some odd service providers who are all so dedicated to their beliefs which mirror mine. Beneath the drug addictions, beneath the alcoholism, beneath the tough guy exterior, beat shattered, broken hearts of hurting men and women who for one reason or another, are not always capable of asking for help. There is a story behind each and every face; A story that would melt even the coldest of hearts if only we, as Americans would take the time to listen.
If you have been keeping up with my blog, you would know that there were times when I wanted to give up; Times when the emotions of being back in a place that has haunted the back of my mind for decades almost sent me to the nearest airport home; Times when the physical pain sent me to sleep in tears. Had I, not taken the time to listen to the changes God had for this walk, I would have made it to the finish line and although it would have been a coup for me, I would have gone home thinking I had failed at what I set out to do. I would have gone home thinking that all the time, effort and hardship was all in vain.
Had I selfishly gone the way I planned, walking step by literal step, instead of the way God had in mind for me, I never would have had the opportunity to meet so many men, women and children who had the courage to take that first step forward and ask for help. I never would have met the George Hill, who had 13 years of living on skid row in Los Angeles; Carleton Griffin who overcame 25 years of heroin addiction while homeless; Gina Parnell who spent 33 years as a drug addict in the streets of L.A. and is now grateful for the life she never knew she could have if it weren’t for places like the shelters that gave her sanctuary.
But, it is these people, and the thousands of other I encountered on the way that encouraged me so much more than I ever encouraged them. The ones who have made it into transitional housing or those who are no longer living in the streets gave me the confidence to continue. The ones still out there are the ones that make me know I must go on. If I were to do it all over again would I change anything? Not a single step.
I may have set out to change the world, instead the world changed me. This trip was and continues to be about 'doing the right thing'. It is my hopes to continue through the remaining 47 states. If I zigzag the way I am now through each state it would take 22,356 miles of step by step walking. An average of 15 miles per day would take 1,490 days or a little over 4 years. That is four years of no stopping and talking with the homeless or their service providers, no days off to rest; no time for holidays or birthdays with family or friends. No time to breathe really.
But if the only way to get people’s attention is to walk each and every literal step, then I’ll do it. I’ll travel across the states, and back on my hands and knees if that will get the Brad and Angelina’s of the world to donate that million dollars in their own back yard, without the tragedy of a natural disaster. But, to zigzag across the states step by step, would take years and I do mean years. Many of the homeless don’t have years to wait.
I am an individual, not an official non-profit therefore since no one has stepped up to the plate to sponsor this trip in its entirety, it is 92% self-funding. The remaining 8% has come from generous donations of friends who believe in what I am doing. For now, as long as the funding keeps trickling in, I am going to continue as if these past 1863 miles were just the beginning.
As of today, I am continuing North and will visit many cities I was not able to call upon on the way South. There is so much more to write about, therefore, I will continue to blog as daily as I can. I do hope you will follow.
I will take time off in November to find someone to partner with or if that doesn’t pan out, I will set the wheels in motion to become an official non-profit in order to apply for grants or scholarships that will allow me to continue educating people all across the nation on the etiquette of homelessness.
It takes just one thing to end homelessness. One person; One voice; One step; One Penny. Be that One.