From the beginning, the goal of Project Wildness was not to be a charity – just another group funneling wealth from those who can spare some change to those who have little. Instead of looking down on individuals and their situations, we wanted to lift them up and inspire the masses. At Project Wildness we don’t give charity – we recognize individuals. It seems like just a different way of saying the same thing, but it is more than that. By recognizing individuals instead of handing out charity we are eliminating any artificial walls of separation between people. At the end of the day we recognize we are all the same, but facing different battles.

On a Friday afternoon we rolled into the irresistibly charming town Machias, Maine, nestled at the mouth of Machias Bay. The tide was low as the sun baked the fresh mudflats filling the air with the distinct smell of fish. As we drove along the bay we noticed it was less than scenic because of these shallow tidal areas. Nate commented, “I bet this is really beautiful at high tide.” 

Hungry for something local, we pulled into the gravel parking lot of Riverside Take-Out – a food truck style eatery in an old converted mobile home. The space around the order window was overwhelmingly covered with different signs, menus, and stickers promoting peace and equality. One sign mentioned that senior citizens were entitled to a 10% discount while another listed all the names and photos of the people lost in the nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL. There were multiple signs including a jar on the counter that said, “The Riverside Take-Out is proud to be a pay-it-forward restaurant.”

The idea behind a pay-it-forward restaurant is that people can leave money to help pay for future customers who can’t afford food. Some national chains like Panera have experimented with similar models. The Riverside said that any money not used to help cover food for those in need would be donated to the local food pantry. Some wildness opportunities are subtle and easily missed while other opportunities hit you like a ton of bricks – this was the latter.

A line began to form at the window – this was our chance. Shane walked to the front just as the group finished their order and said, “I’ve got this one.” The customers, taken completely by surprise, looked at the man taking their order, then at Shane, and finally asked, “Are you serious?” Shane smiled and answered, “Absolutely.” He then turned to the man behind the counter and said, “Use the change to pay for as many people as it can.” In an unmistakable New England accent, the man behind the counter said, “That’s really kind – just great. Thank you for that.”

Our order was up and we took the food to a nearby table overlooking the Machias Bay – the tide was rising. Before long, customers approached us with smiles, gratitude, and the same question, “Why?” We took turns introducing Project Wildness and our mission – Good Inspires Good. Greetings and handshakes lead to stories and conversations. One person said, “You always hear about things like this, but never expect it to happen to you.” Another commented, “You picked the perfect place to do this. All the locals love this place. Every year the owners threaten to retire, but we won’t let them!”

Before leaving, one of the groups asked, “Do you boys have a place to stay tonight?” Shane had been researching some potential campsites just out of town and said, “We’ve got a couple options in the forest not far from town. The woman respond, “Well yeah, but say you had an actual bed to sleep in and a shower – would you take it?” We looked at each other and responded, “Yeah I guess we would.”

In quick order plans were made to rendezvous at a spot in town later that evening so we could follow the group out to a cabin on a lake where we would have a shower and a comfortable bed – two things we had gone without for over a week.

As the sun slowly sank over the green coastal hills we parked next to a public access to Michias Bay. Directly across the bay a full moon was rising, pulling the tide along with it. Nate was right – it really was beautiful at high tide.

A rising tide lifts all boats. #ProjectWildness #LiveWildness #GoodInspiresGood

To Stoneridge Software… It is important to recognize businesses that do good. The Riverside Take-Out is one of those companies that go above and beyond to spread kindness and show compassion. They reminded us of another company, Stoneridge Software, that goes above and beyond to do good. Your donation came unsolicited at a time when Project Wildness wasn’t even a tax-exempt nonprofit. When your company chose to donate to our cause there was no financial benefit to be had – only the belief that you were supporting a cause that your company believes in. Thank you for all that you do!