It was a good day, there was no doubt about it: dry, blue, warm but not hot, and the road I walked upon easy to follow and uncrowded.
And then it got better.
Terrie, a new friend, donated to the Task Force. Nancy, whose son had been homeless at one point, heard my story and spontaneously contributed to the cost of my stay at the KOA where I stopped for the night.
After I set up my tent I sent Terrie a thank you note, urging her to get her friends to participate, noting that I was just $200 short of reaching $9000.
A moment later I received an email notification of a second donation, again from Terrie, putting me over the $9000 line.
I sent Terrie another thank you and then sought a place in the shade where I could do some work – and plug in -perhaps finish a blog posting I had started the previous night.
Suddenly Becky, the KOA receptionist, appeared with a man that could’ve been my brother. “You two have a lot in common,”she said.
Wait a moment, as I write this a unique bird call is sounding above my tent, part song , part whistle. But all I can see around me, above me, within the palm fronds and crowded together on the power lines are dark, angular birds.
There were many marvelous coincidences in our backgrounds, especially meeting here, in the California desert. But what was really remarkable was the passionate story Scott Kent told me, about his parents, about his life, about the quest I believe we are all on, the search for a meaningful existence.
Scott and I might have been brothers, long separated, remarkably though what was most mysterious and compelling was that two men in their 60s could meet in the desert and speak so openly and honestly about their disappointments and desires.
Scott is on a six-month camping trip in honor of his parents. All his life he heard his mother and father say that when they had the chance, at the first opportunity, they were going to go on a special, long, and leisurely cross-country adventure. But it was always not this year, always perhaps next year and that year, of course, never arrived.
Both of our parents were in the Air Force, he and I both service brats. Both of our mothers died of complications from surgery to remove brain tumors. But again what was remarkable was that we were both of on a quest that would not end after six months or year because it was a quest to live our lives with more urgency and passion: the quest of a lifetime.
It is I believe something that we all share: a desire for meaning and passion in our everyday lives. I am amazed at those that can achieve that simply by living every day with a special focus, no matter what, but I believe that for most of us a dramatic statement must be made, a stand must be taken, mainly for ourselves, mainly to convince that disbeliever we carry about with us that we can discard the trivial and embrace…’ well, to each his own.
I would be remiss if I did not note that Scott was especially generous to me. Before our first meeting was over he gifted me with, as he put it, a “spare“ propane heater. Something to take the chill out of the tent on those nights in the high desert, he said. Then the next morning, after I had gone to him with a card describing my walk and an invitation to visit me in Plymouth I returned to my tent to begin packing up and he was suddenly there, his hand extended, offering me a donation “in case you need to be inside sometime in the next few weeks.”
Did I say it was a good day? I need to confess now and be reminded to confess again and again that it has been a good life, that I have received far more that I have given.
Amazing things happen when you go for a walk.
(For regular updates and daily pictures from my walk across America visit my Facebook site, Frank Mand.)