After graduating from Alhambra High School in Martinez California, the three went their separate ways, Aaron to UC Berkeley, Gabriel to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA, and Robby to Notre Dame. Now they've passed the milestone of their undergraduate degrees and are making plans to pursue education even further... but first they want to add an epic experience to their résumés.
We had the good fortune to encounter Aaron, Robby and Gabriel under the Highway 25 overpass on Highway 30 at the west edge of Sutherland. It was about six o'clock in the evening, and the three appeared to be confabbing about where to eat and where to sleep for the night. Here we are with all of our kids gone and empty beds in the house, so why not make use of them?
The boys readily accepted our hospitality. Aaron and Gabriel have been walking since mid March, and it hasn't been unusual for strangers to show them kindness and generosity. Robby... poor Robby! Responsibilities kept him from joining his friends until last week when he rode the bus to Ogallala, so he has only been walking a short while and hasn't experienced the road hardening that the other two have accomplished. He is sunburned, blistered and footsore after just over thirty miles on the road. I think the thought of a hot shower and a warm bed had quite an appeal for him.
Fortunately for Nebraskas image, Gabe has family in the Wauneta area, so they haven't spent all of their time along the main thoroughfares of I-80 and Highway 30. After they cleaned up and had a quick dinner of hamburgers and brats, we only had a short time before full dark to show them another part of Nebraska not in the Platte River valley. We piled into the pickup and headed north out of Sutherland into the Sandhills. Knowing they were tired, we only went as far as the Birdwood Creek valley, then got out of the pickup to share in the early evening sounds only God's creatures make. No railroad or highway noises, just the rush of the water through the culvert, night bird songs and crickets. The boys echoed a sentiment we have heard before "it's good to know that places like this still exist." We agree, and are fortunate enough to live here!
So why are they doing it? My request for a succinct paragraph to include in my blog elicited three pages of notes. Rightly so, because it is difficult to explain why three sane, well-rounded, highly educated and intelligent young men (and, I might add - nice!) would put their lives on hold and walk (according to Mapquest) about 3,000 miles across the country.People are at the core of the reasons for their trek - experiencing the life stories of people along the way and sharing their life stories in return. To experience the commonalities of Americans rather than the divisions that are so readily exploited today. To share in all of the elements that unite us, that aren't seen without hitting the road and actually talking to people.
And it's about freedom. The walk is a good reminder of the controlling processes in life. We have a choice about what controls us and influences us. It is possible to choose what you want if "you put your foot down." Their memories of the walk will remain a constant reminder to them of what is to live freely - that every day is a choice of how they want to live. The understanding of freedom they gained by committing to and accomplishing the walk will still be with them long after the walk has faded into their histories, expressing it may just be a little more difficult.
All three of the young men are deeply spiritual, and I think Robby spoke for all of them when he said that for him, the walk was "an exercise in being open to where God is leading me in life. A small spiritual exercise in being open to Gods will."
I also believe that the walk has been a humbling experience for them. As Aaron said, "I have lost the need to have to prove something, to take on people's expectations. As I've walked, my expectations no longer really exist. Pride about the whole walking thing is just not there any more." At the risk of putting words into his mouth, I will try to explain my concept of what he means by this - While the walk will definitely be an accomplishment, it is so much more about the experience, and what they are getting, giving and learning out of it rather than just something they can cross off their "bucket list."
We are so fortunate to have been the ones in Sutherland Nebraska to have had the opportunity to meet these young men. It could have been anyone, yet we were the ones blessed by it and are grateful. Don't miss your chance to share in someones life.
So what do you want to do, and why aren't you doing it?Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on, just don't sit around drinking coffee when you could be out DOING!