A second life for your backpack

As I was trying out different backpacks the other day, it occurred to me that organizations that work with the homeless should team up with hikers. Certainly there must be a lot of unused backpacks out there. How many hikers buy a backpack and then never take the trip, or get a new one and leave their perfectly good old one to sit in the back of a closet collecting dust. Instead, that backpack could be given to someone in urgent need of a way to carry all of their belongings safely on their person.

Though I have never been homeless, and cannot understand how it must feel to have no where to call home, certainly I can appreciate the unnecessary loss of privacy and personal belongings. I know that at the end of my trip I will be donating my backpack to someone in need. I hope other hikers can join me in doing the same.

Robin Williams

Earlier today I met Robin Williams. No, not the comedian. I met a smart and funny woman of the same name who just happens to be homeless. I’ve seen her around Alexandria before and said hello, but today was the first day I had a conversation with Robin. While I was on my way to pick up a few items at the grocery store I saw her napping in the sun on the sidewalk. So, as I picked up lunch and snacks for me at the store, I decided to pick some up something for her as well.

When I walked by her on my return trip home she was awake. I told her I had a gift for her and gave her lemonade and some chocolate. She seemed to appreciate the gesture. I have no idea if she even likes chocolate and lemonade–I hope she does. We chatted briefly and she told me she was a writer and would perhaps one day write some poetry for me. I was deeply touched and promised to bring her a notepad and pen the next time I saw her. I intend to keep this promise.

As I walked the rest of the way home I was a little teary and realized that if I am ever going to make it from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco I am going to have to realize that people are inherently tough and resourceful. She is not looking for a handout, just a kind gesture and a friendly chat. Yes, her life is probably hard. But she was the one sitting on the sidewalk smiling while I was the one walking away feeling sad.

Can you spare a dime?

A dime may seem like an insignificant amount of money but little things can add up to something important. Earlier this week someone picked up a dime off the ground and told me it could be my first donation. (And he kindly didn’t appear concerned that he couldn’t get a tax write-off for his generous contribution.) Initially I considered brushing aside the single dime. But, over time, a dime, joined by another and another, could be a significant sum. If I was given a dime for each mile in my nearly 3,000 mile trip, I would have $300. If someone could only spare a nickel for each mile, that would be $150. Though still not a large sum of money, for some people that could be the difference between making rent, paying utilities, and retaining dignity.