We hadn’t spent more than an hour in Asheville, NC, before we determined it was a much needed stop on our tour of the South. The air was cooler and drier. A breeze eased the heat we’d experienced across the Deep South. And to top it off, we’d just filled up on Korean-Mexican food from an incredible local food truck. That’s when we met Leon.

Leon looked big and well built. Mid-30s. He had dark eyes that reflected the little bit of low light left hanging on to the evening. “How you doing?” Nate asked. Leon looked up from his spot on the patio. With a pensive look at the floor and then back at us, he answered, “Umm… Not too well.” Leon returned a Black & Mild to his lips and inhaled slowly. We sat down next to him.

We quickly learned that Leon had come on some hard times. He talked at length about the ups and downs of his marriage. His home was a tent on the edge of town, and his truck sat in the shop down the street because he was unable to pay the repair bill. We looked down at our drinks and took a second to reevaluate their worth. He shared his life story with us, two strangers from across the country. As he spoke, we could see a piece of his burden lift by the change in his eyes. Leon hadn’t had someone listen for awhile.

“I’ve got a question for you, Leon.” Nate said. “If you could do any one thing for any one person, what would you do and for whom?” Leon didn’t wait to respond, “Probably build a house for my family, you know? With my own hands.” He held up two big powerful hands. He was a carpenter in town. While he hadn’t finished high school, he was proud of his current job and the $15/hour wage. “I wouldn’t build anything too extravagant, just something where all of us could live together under one roof.” Leon’s smile grew as he imagined. We smiled right back.

At the end of our conversation, Nate asked Leon, “How long do suppose we’ve been here talking with you?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Just over an hour?” “Well, I suppose we owe you for your time, huh?” Nate told him. “How does $20 sound?” Leon smiled again. “It would help,” he told us. We handed him a crisp $20 bill and left with one more question:

“If you could tell 10-year-old Leon something given what you know now, what advice would you give him?” Nate asked. Leon looked up with that sly smile. “Wow, that’s a good one,” he joked. Then he paused. “I’d probably tell him, ‘Look through those who don’t look you in the eye.’” And with one final smile, Leon walked into the darkness.

If you could do any one thing for any one person, what would you do and for whom? #ProjectWildness #LiveWildness #GoodInspiresGood

To Taylor and Alyssa… Today you hired a hardworking man from North Carolina. This is just a small piece of his story. We can assure you your donation to him was much appreciated. Leon is one of many who work hard but never feel ahead. You brightened his night and for that we thank you. Thanks for supporting us at our fundraiser, and thanks for lending your hand to Leon.