Today’s roadside Gem: Keith, tramper of America’s roads less traveled.

Let me just start by saying, I have the pleasure of being surrounded by great friends and family.  My circle of love is wide, and has depth beyond measure.  That being said, my morning was spent running with a couple of great gals who have enriched my circle.

The run was usual.  Laughter, dirty jokes, group therapy, and of course, lots of sweating took place….

As we approached a bend in the road, a man, carrying a very large pack, who was accompanied by a small dog, headed towards us.  As an aside, we reside in a small town, in the smallest state in the nation.  This is not something you see everyday.  As luck would have it, my friend KAK(nickname obviously) was equally curious.  We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to inquire! We sped up our pace.  We reached our target.  “Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to chat?” I managed, slightly out of breath.  “Sure” he responded without hesitation.

We shook hands, and I learned that his name was Keith.  He shared with us that his most recent trek began in Bangor, ME.  You see, Keith lost his job some time ago, put seventy pounds of his possessions in his backpack, and took to the road, forty nine states worth of roads to be precise.  Somewhere along the way, in Kentucky, he found an accomplice, an energetic, friendly dog.  Both Keith and his small, spunky dog exuded kindness and an innocence.  Refreshing to encounter, and reaffirming of my belief that those who walk their own path have an advantage.  I felt a glimmer of admiration for this man, who had fallen on hard times economically, yet hadn’t lost spirit.  His kind eyes, and easy presence led me to believe that he was at peace.  The roof over his head was the cerulean sky and cirrus clouds.  The road beneath his feet was his path, his journey, ever changing, and he was present.  No sense of urgency, just calm participation in the moment.

Chatting with him on the side of the road reminded me of the importance of maintaining connectivity to humanity.  Human contact and affection are so important.  When we become desensitized and attempt to reduce our fellow man, we ourselves become very small.  Keith shared with me that he has had milkshakes pelted at him, water bottles thrown at his head, and ugly words and phrases yelled in his direction.  Why?  Has his very presence on the road hindered anyone personally?  Of course not!  Yet it makes some so uncomfortable that they feel entitled to judgement of a man they haven’t bothered to take the time to get to know.

Peter Jenkins, in his personal account of tramping America in, A Walk Across America, encountered similar incidents of targeted hostility.  As a runner and occasional cyclist, I have been honked at, cursed at, and had a doughnut thrown at my face.  I have experienced only a small taste of the dark underbelly of illogical meanness.

Individually we are responsible for maintaining an ever present sense of compassion towards one another.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”-Plato

I am thankful for my encounter with Keith.  May the road less traveled treat him well.

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