A week before starting the Project Wildness journey, I (Shane) found myself sitting at the Kuzel family dinner table celebrating Jim’s birthday (my boss). Emily asked a question about Project Wildness so I gave them the quick elevator pitch. Matt thought I had put in my notice at the plant to go on some beatnik road trip like a modern day Jack Kerouac. I think he was a bit surprised to see this trip had a purpose.
Their oldest son, Alexander (or Alejandro in some circles) had recently received a gift of $20 with the caveat that he must spend $10 on himself and then give the remaining $10 to someone in need. It didn’t take long for him to spend his $10, but he didn’t buy a gift all for himself as instructed. Instead, he bought both he and his younger brother, Evan, each a hermit crab and a terrarium. As both boys paraded their pets around the table, Matt and Emily told me the story of the gift. Suddenly Alexander went to grab the remaining $10, scaling a counter to reach it at the top. He handed it to me and I was shocked. I thanked him sincerely and asked what he wanted me to do with it. He didn’t really know. Trust me, it isn’t easy to decide who to help and often times anyone who has a request does so because of a personal experience. Matt and Emily gave him some ideas and finally Alexander exclaimed, “Buy a hobo a meal!” Matt and Emily were quick to correct his innocent slur. I don’t know a person alive who didn’t picture homeless people as a loveable tramp with a knapsack on a stick when they were kids. Alexander is very aware that there are homeless people in need in this world and did what we all do; he made an association. His innocence made me feel even more moved by his generosity.
I have been holding that $10 for a while on this trip, waiting for the exact right moment. Alexander’s donation held a very special place in my heart and I wanted it to be perfect for him. On Sunday night the moment had arrived. We had just left a small taqueria in Santa Cruz, CA, and we were heading south for Big Sur. Just before leaving town we passed two men and a dog on the side of the road with a sign that read, “For Food Please”. I pulled over on a small side street, turned to Nate, and said, “I’ve got one.” I jumped out of the car and started walking to the men with Nate and Chloe at my heels.
I quickly told the men about Project Wildness and Alexander’s gift and then I handed him a $100 bill, saying, “This is from Alejandro.” His reaction was incredible. He introduced himself as Stanley, as well as his friend Gordy and their dog, Chica. The most amazing part was that Stanley immediately told us that he was going to share the money with other people in need. He could have easily kept it for himself, but that didn’t even enter his mind. Stanley truly embodied the spirit of Project Wildness.
To Alejandro… Your giving heart has been an incredible inspiration for me this entire trip. Stanley and Gordy were hoping to get about $1.50 for the night to eat. Your donation alone would have fed them for a week. Stanley was blown away by your generosity and he gave me a gift that I am supposed to give to you when I see you next. We’ll be bringing that home for you.
To Matt and Emily… you have raised two incredible boys and an amazing little girl. Your family is built on giving selflessly and never wavering from your beliefs or morals. Because of you, Stanley, Gordy, and Chica received a gift just as Alexander did. Part of the money will be spent on themselves to eat and the other part will be shared with others who need it.
A gift is something to share. #ProjectWildness