Our first week back was a bit melancholic. Mixing the excitement of seeing our family and friends with the desire to continue down an open road was a little tough to adjust to. We were overwhelmed by the support and comments people gave us on what this trip has meant to them! People approached us telling stories of how they had come home from work and gotten into the habit of opening our Facebook page to see what we had been up to. They knew names of people, places, and even details of the stories we had come across in our travels. One young man we talked to felt no shame in telling us he had teared up at more than one of the stories. We couldn’t have ever imagined such incredible support from home! Thank you all!
Another difficult adjustment was simply seeing fewer people in our day to day. We had gotten used to driving hundreds of miles a day, stopping at landmarks, and striking up conversations on streets or cafes. Nate tucked away to rural life, and Shane planted his feet in Hawley, Minnesota -- probably more relaxing lives than we had become accustomed to, but an adjustment to make nonetheless. While we kept busy, the constant movement was something we definitely missed. Wanderlust had never shown itself more than now.
Combatting some of this adjustment was a little easier when we reminded ourselves that Project Wildness didn’t stop just because we were in our hometown. In fact, it was every reason to continue with the mission we had set out with from the beginning. Days after returning home, Nate learned of a benefit dinner for a young man from Hawley to help with his ongoing battle with cancerous brain tumors. While medically they seemed to be making progress, we can only imagine the financial burden such an event could place on an already emotionally burdened family.
We knew that evening we were going to get something to eat and visit with some hometowners at the benefit dinner. Before we left, we decided to try to fill up the back seat with people who might need a meal provided by all of you! With three seats open, we parked in Downtown Fargo and started walking. In less than a block, we came across a man on the corner -- a wide smile, dancing and swinging his hips. His face looked all too friendly and we couldn’t help but strike up a conversation. The man removed his headphones and introduced himself as James from Philadelphia. “I’m just so happy today. I don’t even know why!” he said. We asked if he was hungry. “Am I hungry? Hell yeah, I’m hungry!” James didn’t turn down our dinner invite, and we walked together looking for two more hungry folks to fill up the back seat.
We walked two more blocks to a group of people hanging around together, and without skipping a beat James asked, “Who’s hungry? These guys are gonna treat us to dinner!” Plenty jumped at the opportunity, but some weren’t as comfortable taking a ride across town with two strangers. A quiet older man named Rocky emerged calm and collected saying, “I’m ready. Where are we going?” Rocky was followed by a younger man named Darrell. With Rocky, Darrell, and James in tote, we hoofed it back to the car and loaded into the orange Subaru.
Darrell quickly asked to take shotgun, which he got, and the rest of us piled into the back. We skipped through 80’s music, 90’s, classic rock, R&B, and a little bit of every genre as DJ Darrell carried us on a bed of tunes to the benefit dinner. Upon arrival, the guys seemed a little uneasy. They felt like they would stick out as sore thumbs because they didn’t look formal enough. Nate pointed out his jeans and sandals and tried to ease their minds reminding them we were all there for two reasons: to help a family out and get some dinner. Rocky didn’t seem to mind either way. He informed us that he hadn’t had a proper meal in two weeks. While he’d had bits and pieces here and there, an actual meal hadn’t come his way.
We entered the building and bought a couple of extra meals for our crew. If you’ve never tried Sweeto Burrito Fargo, now’s the time! Excellent burritos, quesadillas, and chips and salsa covered our table. Darrell put his down in no time and wondered if it was possible to get back in line. Shane jumped back up to the ticket table and bought some more meals before Darrell got back in line. Before leaving, we’d all had plenty and left with a bag of burritos the guys wanted to deliver to the folks we couldn’t fit in our car. Yet another example of the beautiful spirit of action inspiring action!
To Mike and Kate M… You gave with the suggestion that we buy someone’s lunch or dinner. On this day you provided dinner for three hungry men and supported your former student in his courageous steps toward beating cancer. What the two of you do for young people and the community is inspiring to say the least. Mike… I’ve worked with you over the last few years and have yet to see someone execute that position as well as you do. You do it with ease and class. Both of you hold off on demanding respect; instead, you earn it from the very young people you serve. Continue doing the good you do each day in the name of the kids you care so much for.
To Jeanette W… You gave without knowing two young guys with a dream. You shared belief in the journey and trusted in the goodness of people. You asked us to buy a meal for someone in need. We can assure you your money found its way to a good cause and helped feed three men who needed a hot meal. The donation you contributed to Project Wildness stands as a true testament to the power of a single random act of kindness. Today your random act helped ease the minds and stomachs of some good men… who passed it on.
We also decided to put to good use some memorial money Nate had put into Project Wildness in memory of Shane’s father, Gary, who passed away from cancer less than two months before leaving on our first trip. He will be so greatly missed but lives on in every one of the 7,417 miles we traveled. Gary would have loved to hear the stories of the people we came across and the lives they lead. Project Wildness is Gary’s legacy.
Your legacy is not what you do while you’re here. It’s what others do because of you when you’re gone. #ProjectWildness