My trek sets out again in the morning but I have had a fabulous time here in the Big Easy, mostly due to my new friends. It is one of those rare times when you immediately fall into step with a place and people you have never previously known, but falling into step is what I do and what I will do again in the morning to begin my lax three day stroll to Baton Rouge.
When I first started this, there were a lot of things I wanted to achieve on a private and personal level that I now feel like I have done. As for a personal purpose in life, I never felt like I had one, but I admired the passion with which others pursued theirs. It never mattered to me whether that purpose was enlightenment, the cure for AIDS or finding the perfect apple pie, they all had merit. And so, with no purpose of my own I decided the best thing I could do was to enjoy life as best I could and help others towards their goals. To this end, this is why I chose education for my charity, to give people tools to chase after goals.
The people I had really wanted to help though were the people like me, the people who didn't quite fit and often thought there was no place for them to fit. People who had dreams that society said didn't make sense or couldn't happen because of responsibilities that were foisted upon us and became important for no better reason than everyone else seemed to agree they were important. There's no foundation for people like us and we wouldn't use it if it were there.
I didn't originally dream that by trying my best to enjoy life I would find the answer that I so longed for in helping people. When I was a kid, I always said, "I'm an interesting guy, people should just pay me to be me and do things and it would be amazing, an artwork of a life well worth the investment if only I were given a chance." Well, that never happened, but in going out and living I have found that people are willing to give so much to see that spark and freedom in something, and remember and even rekindle their dreams. It is the greatest part of my journey that when I stay with someone in recent times they tell me about how visiting them has made them think about doing something they feel is worth while if not extraordinary. Biking across country, rowing to Finland, or joining me in some future endeavor.
All I can give people is inspiration and I couldn't imagine a better or more important purpose to have found. I'm really not worthy of it and nor are my deeds but I love seeming that fanning of the flames of life in people. Today I strolled along the sidewalk and ate ice cream in a way I can't ever remember doing, completely free and slow. Talking with M about our chance meeting with Ross on the Mississippi he asked me, "What were the chances in 3000 miles of river that we would meet someone who had walked 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail?" Coincidences like this fail to flag my attention these days, those of you who have followed my blog know how often they come up and how small the world is.
Maybe most notably was the meeting with BJ Hill in Charlotte, NC. A Boston man walking from California back to Boston, I being a California man walking from Boston back to California was struck by this at the time. The fact that my traveling companion at the time had actually worked with him was just icing on the coincidence cake. By the time BJ was one hundred miles from his end, another walker was heading from LA to Boston, he was 100 miles into his journey during the same hour. This happened the same day I reached the Mobile Bay, which was a self defined midpoint of my journey. Now this was no longer astounding, it was the way the ever shrinking world worked and it was almost expected that these things would pop up. I am hoping to meet Jesse in Texas.
M described it beautifully, "When you do something strange or extraordinary, it is like people are grass, thousands of us alike and suddenly your head pops up, and so do other people doing these things and they are easy to spot." M is one of the sharpest guys I've ever met and I'll miss him when I leave in the morning.
This world is small but amazing, maybe fit perfectly to size one tiny lifetime of experiences. I have met many people on my trip which have humbled me, something I am not used to but find I like very much. When I look at others greatness I see only heights to achieve, not things to covet. I will keep living as well and as long as I can, and I hope that you will all join me because it is beautiful out here.