Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The stuff we'll remember

PRINCETON, N.J. - JUNE 9 -- We hadn’t truly contemplated the daunting task of walking out of the biggest city in America until it was nearing time to leave New York City. Little did we know, Laurie had just finished writing us an email that would eventually solve the problem:

"hey guys!

i know this is a random email, but i guess that is somewhat the purpose of your trip. my name is laurie and i heard about your walk from nate swetalla. we are friends from when we were both living in valparaiso... i just moved back east to my hometown (manasquan) about 2 weeks ago and would love to offer you a bit of a ride or a place to stay if you are passing through the jersey shore. i saw that you are probably in connecticut somewhere & i don't know your route. i am in central new jersey right by the beach (which frankly is the best part of jersey!). let me know if i can help you out at all... i know the new york/north jersey area could be a tough walk. it would be great to meet you guys! hope to hear from you & safe travels!

laurie :) "


After Laurie picked us up, we were on our way to the Jersey Shore. We warmed up to one another quickly. As we watched a mass of people roam the shore, Laurie told us what a ‘Benny' was. Brian and I were, and somewhat still are, confused as to how to actually spot one. She explained the acronym stands for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York-area tourists who flood the Jersey Shore during the summer. This left us wondering what our label was. Did they have a nickname for Iowans?

We stayed overnight at Laurie's house and got to know her family. We watched the Belmont Stakes as her dad made us laugh when he mentioned he was pretty sure they turned horses into glue. We played peek-a-boo with Laurie's 6-month-old nephew, Benjamin, sometimes making him laugh, other times making him cry.

Moving on from Laurie’s house sounded simple. As her brother Brian explained to us, ‘All you have to do is take the Capital Trail west and it will take you guys directly to the Pennsylvania border.’ However, I was on the computer later on when I figured out, through Wikipedia, that the trail exists only on paper and is to be completed in 2010. This didn’t pose a serious concern as it meant getting out of Jersey would just take a bit longer.

We packed up our bags and just before we put them on, Laurie's grandfather, who was turning 86 the next day, showed up at the home. He seemed more excited than us about our project, telling stories of the time he rode his bicycle to New York State with nothing but a tent.

'It was an adventure alright,' he said. 'That's the stuff you'll remember when you're my age.'


flipmode923 said...

This trip seemed to has morphed from the desire of doing things FOR people, to documenting the wonderful warmth so many people have shown. This might be the second meaning of the double entendre (No Stranger Land), but one I'm sure people following your journey will no doubt realize.

Nanci in Rye Beach, NH said...

Right on, flipmode923. As I told the boys when they were here, the joke is on them - people are more wonderful than they thought. Strangers just need to be given the chance.

Having said that, this is about two young idealists who set out to physically do things for and interact with strangers to illustrate that people are innately good. What I'm seeing is that their words, their ideas and their hearts are accomplishing that for them. They are a achieving what they set out to do, but it's happening in a way they didn't expect. More fun, less work, better result. In the business world, that's considered genius.

So keep going, guys. Your journey is creating a great big ripple effect of generosity and goodness.

To your detractors I say this:

- If these two can keep the momentum going by writing a book at the end of this journey, more power to them. They'll just be influencing people on a grander scale.

- If people want to contribute to this cause because Brian and Denny are entertaining and influencing those of us staying home in our mundane lives and living vicariously through these two dreamers, give, give, give. You obviously feel the value in No Stranger Land.

- To Brian and Denny, keep going, keep having fun and keep sharing your experiences with us. Don't let the detractors get you down. Their opinions are all part of your learning process. It's still an interaction. But when you see those posts, consider this. The authors are probably people who will always live in Stranger Land.

JC in Iowa City said...

nanci in rye beach,nh
I couldnt have said it better myself!

Carolyn said...

Hi Brian and Denny,
Our patio is free of weeds, the chairs are clean, the stone steps are finally usable, leaves were removed and the bushes are trimmed thanks to your hard work and kindness!! My husband Jim and I had the pleasure of meeting you in Kent, CT. We were surprised when you asked if we had any jobs for you to do for us and I only wish I had more time to get to know you both instead of rushing off to work.

Jim wanted to pay for your lunch but you beat him to it! That's something he does when he meets interesting people, but no "stranger" has ever paid for his meal. What a great turnaround for him!

We'll follow your travels via your blog and wish you much success on your adventure. We admire your determination to find the goodness in people of this beautiful country. We're with you in spirit and will definitely pay it forward!!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the comment Nanci made on 6/10. You guys set out on a journey to accomplish a mission of interacting with and helping out stangers with acts of kindness. So far what is being proven is that these strangers you are interacting with are showing acts of kindness toward you in return, which is both amazing and inspiring. You two are teaching a lot of us a great lesson in life. Maybe you really are helping to create a no stranger land.

Nanci, you should be the one writing a book. You have a gift for expressing your feelings with words that few people have. I really enjoy reading your comments.

Keep it going guys!

Brian's Dad