The Kindness of Strangers

Hagerstown, MD-Mercersburg, PA, 19.6 miles

Today I realized for the first time just how many people my trip has touched, and how much the support, encouragement and well wishes from those I’ve met along the way has helped propel me forward. While walking through Hagerstown many people recognized me from a brief story on the local NBC station, WHAG. Several cars honked and waved, and one woman told me that after hearing about my trip on TV last night she learned there is a tent city in Hagerstown. She now plans to work with her church to see what can be done to help her neighbors in need. If I help only one person in my travels, I will call it a success.

Thanks to all this encouragement, I was able to push on through farms and fields, past prancing cows and over hills–right on into my first new state: Pennsylvania. My feet ached and I was hungry (but then I am always hungry) but I pushed on to Mercersburg, my highest mileage day so far (almost 20 miles.)

As I arrived in town it was just starting to get dark and the cemetery glowed with eerie fluorescent crosses. (It is apparently a popular trend in cemeteries.) But if my entrance into town was eerie, my arrival in the small town square could not have been more warm and welcoming. I asked for suggestions as to where to eat. I ended up with the owner of Rue’s insisting on paying for my dinner; monetary donations as residents pulled money from their wallet to help me on my way; and a complete stranger invited me into her home and gave me a safe place to sleep.

I cannot help but wonder if I would be so generous to a complete stranger–would I trust someone on their word that they are walking for homelessness and poverty? Or does it make a difference why someone is walking? Is it in our nature to help those who are in need? Surely it cannot be or we would not allow our fellow man to suffer in poverty.

Regardless of why complete strangers have offered me a hand, I will be content to accept their generosity, and to one day return the favor.

– By Jennifer E. Cooper