Friday, May 30, 2008
Good strangers go to heaven
TYRINGHAM, MASS. – MAY 30 -- ‘You guys gettin’ in or what?’ Danny shouted out his car window. Ten minutes prior, we had given him directions using our map of Massachusetts, only to watch him take off in the opposite direction than the one we advised. Now, realizing we were right from the start, he passed by to give us a lift despite being late for a meeting with Bank of America. Even though the ride lasted only a couple miles, it was a great way to start the day after waking up in the woods at Walden Pond.
A half-day’s worth of walking had taken a toll on Brian’s left knee and right ankle. As we rested outside a small town convenience store, a man leisurely asked us if we’d like a lift as he strolled out of the store. Since a lawn mower, a hose, and some branches crowded the truck bed, we rode up front with Scott – a quiet, friendly local in his late 40s. He told us of a camping spot 10 miles down the road. We agreed that would be a good destination. ‘Here it is,’ Scott said. As he hung the right turn, his eyes widened. The campground had turned into a new subdivision since Scott’s last visit. As a consolation, he drove Brian and I to his hometown of Clinton, which was just fine with us since it was quite a ways west. We walked another eight miles and set up our tent near the banks of a reservoir. We had no idea the next day would bring us to the west side of Massachusetts.
The blister on the bottom of my left foot was intolerable after Brian and I began walking the next day. Although I’ve been opposed to blister-popping from the start, I went into CVS with the intention of picking up a few needles while Brian waited outside. I came out with a handful of safety pins and a new friend, Monica. The ride Monica ended up taking us on was the furthest by anyone thus far on the journey - around 50 miles. Monica donated granola bars and water to us as we parted ways. As Brian and I walked away, I had a smile on my face while I remembered the discussions in the car, ranging from the truth behind The Salem Witch Trials to her youngest daughter’s ‘Stranger Awareness’ lesson in school. Apparently her daughter came home one day extra fearful of anyone she didn’t know. Monica had to explain to her that there were good strangers and bad strangers. ‘Mom, do good strangers go to heaven?’ the daughter had asked.
Our spirits were high as we walked eight miles toward Amherst, the home of U-Mass. Staying only a couple hours, we were pleased to be moving on to North Hampton by the way of a free bus ride thanks to A.J. the driver. Being a small community, I stuck out with the big blue backpack strapped on my shoulders.
Meaghan, who had hitchhiked through Alaska a year ago, inquired about the pack and our matching t-shirts. After getting to know each other, Meaghan reached out to us by picking us up at our campsite, cooking us breakfast, and giving us a lift all the way to the Appalachian Trail - a destination we had planned to reach in the distant future.
The two days since waking at Walden Pond are a blur as people’s good will has rushed us through the state. We have yet to ask for anything out of anyone along the way with one exception – inquiring about the possibility of sleeping in a jail cell at a small-town police station. The answer was ‘No’ – unless we did something very illegal. We walked out, still stuck at Point A, in-need of place to lay our heads for the night. We took our time, stopping to chat with a man playing guitar on an outdoor staircase. We explained our project to him as he continued to ask questions. ‘Tell America hello for me,’ he said as we parted ways.