27 June 2019 - Lawrence, Kansas
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
When I have encountered individuals at various times during this walk, especially in those brief meetings that happen in gas stations and fast-food restaurants and cafes and sometimes along the side of the road, there is a refrain that I hear now and then. Someone will say, “Be careful! There are lot of crazy people out there!” Early on, I decided to respond, “The people I have met have been generous and gracious and encouraging. I have experienced so much goodness in people.” At times, people have asked me if I have encountered any hostile people. “No,” I say, “just some hostile dogs.”
This has been my experience. I have now walked over 1,500 miles, and I have not encountered any hostile people. That is saying something, don’t you think?
I feel the need to add a few other thoughts here. I am very aware that I am a white male, and that this means that I’m not only given the benefit of the doubt, but that I have privilege in our society. No doubt about it. I had one young woman who wistfully said to me, “Oh, I would love to do what you are doing, but I don’t feel safe doing something like that on my own.” And if I were a man or a woman of color, I believe I would have had some different encounters by now, some different stories to share. So, let me acknowledge that and grieve that and say that we still have much work to do when it comes to establishing full freedom and justice for ALL in the United States - every man, woman, and child.
It also saddens and grieves me that I did not walk the five miles or so through East St. Louis, Illinois. I wanted to walk there. And so many people told me that wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, even in broad daylight. So, Clayton and Frida Ferguson picked me up near there, transported me to the Illinois side of the Eads Bridge, and I walked across the Mississippi River into St. Louis.
And… my experience is that people are good. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is good, and people - at their core - are good. I have experienced that in England, in South Carolina, in Virginia, in Colorado, in Dominica, in Mexico, in El Salvador, in the Dominican Republic, in the Netherlands, in Peru, in Italy, in Scotland, and in every state of this walk. I know about the reality of sin. I know that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, as St. Paul puts it in Romans 3. And yet, at their core, people are good. God created all that is and - at the end of the first creation story - we read, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31a)
Yesterday a farmer drove up behind me in his pickup, reached out the window and handed me a $5 bill. “That is very kind of you, sir,” I said. He said “You’re welcome,’ said something about seeing me on TV the night before, and drove on ahead.
I have been on the road for 115 days and have only had to spend the night camping three times. That is one of the testimonies I have of how good and gracious people have been, for almost all of the other nights I have been in people’s homes. And the vast majority of those folks I had not met before I began this walk!
God has been incredibly gracious in providing for me during the first 3-1/2 months of this walk, day after day, each and every day. And God’s blessings have come to me in large part through people - good, loving, caring, encouraging, faithful, prayerful, ready-to-serve people.
The pictures that accompany this post capture just a few of those folks.
People are making it possible for me to get across the country - safely, while getting the rest I need, being fed in body, mind, and spirit. And I am deeply grateful.
So, if you ask me if I think people are basically good, I say, unequivocally, “Yes!”