We live a mile from the town square, so we were surprised the other day to find a man walking down our little street with a pack on his back. Our little neighborhood is not the usual place to find someone in need. But there he was. He was walking east past our house, and we were walking west back to our house from an after-dinner walk. I noticed the words on his tee-shirt. They said Walked Here From Florida. I turned around after a few steps and looked back at him. There was a sign on his pack that said, Walking to Seattle. I just couldn't believe it. Is this true? So I ran after him and asked him, "Did you really walk here all the way from Florida?" He said yes.
So, here on this little street in Arcata, we met this lovely young man who has been walking since May 2013 to raise money for ekal vidyalaya, an organization that is dedicated to bringing education and village development to rural India. He told us how just a little bit of money helps a lot of children there. He was absolutely committed to helping as many as he could. We asked him if he had a place to stay for the night. He said that he was on his way to his host's house. We asked him if he was going to fly home from Seattle. He said that he really wanted to step a foot into Canada, the way he had in Mexico, so he could say he walked from Florida to California, from Mexico to Canada. Then he wanted to rent a car and drive his walking path home.
Stephen Hnilica emanated serene happiness and a hopeful generosity of spirit. I asked him if I could take his picture. He said, "Sure, for five dollars." Uh-oh, I never carry my purse. So, I looked at Roger, "Do you have five dollars?" Stephen laughed, "I'm only kidding with you. Sure, take my picture." So I did with the iPhone. We thanked him. We shook hands. We told him how happy we were to have crossed paths with him. We waved good-bye.
We feel so unbelievably glad to have met him, to know a young person whose dream is bigger than himself. It's the best part of giving someone a second look.