July 25

A zero mile day today. I decided to take another day to get some shopping done after I reviewed my route and realized this may be my last chance for a while for stores carrying the things I need and more reasonably priced than the small town stores. Being as I never met anyone today for new stories I’m sharing a 2007 story from my corner to corner walk of the U.S. I did in honor of my beautiful little girl, my, “Shelly Walk.”

Salt Barn

Just south of Canton, Ohio, walking in a cold steady drizzle of rain, I started looking for cover so I wouldn’t have to pitch my tent in the rain if I could avoid it. I saw some open storage buildings and headed for them. A sign said it was the Sugar Creek Township Maintenance Dept. There were two men in a little office building; Mike and his one helper, Rick. Mike told me I could bed down in one of the salt barns, the barns they stored the salt in to de-ice the roads in winter. I had coffee and cheese doodles with them, a northern Ohio thing maybe? I shared my story and Mike shared that only recently his young son-in-law had taken his own life. After Mike and Rick left for the day, I made my bed in the salt barn and out of the pouring rain and settled in.

I was reading a two-day-old newspaper Mike had given me. A car pulled up in front of the open-faced salt barn; a young lady, maybe early twenties, got out of her car. She walked within 15 feet of me and just started sobbing: I realized that Mike must have told his daughter who I was; this was the little darling who had just lost her husband to suicide. I ran to her and just wrapped my arms around her and held her while she sobbed. She started trying to apologize for her break down, I stopped her and told her to let it rip. She was screaming out, “He did it right in front of me; he shot himself right in front of me!” All I could do was hold her and love her. She continued screaming, “I was a stay at home mom, and I have lost our house. I have a new baby boy, what am I going to do.” I just kept holding her, she held on tight. I can’t describe how much love I felt for that precious heartbroken child. I didn’t have her immediate answer anymore than I have anyone else’s. But I do have love, so I just loved her. I was holding my little boy and my little girl. I can’t give them my love any longer, so I’ll give it to the children of others. I held her for a very long time while she just cried out from her precious little broken heart. She eventually stopped sobbing and screaming. We talked long. I told her I loved her very much.

The next morning as I hiked down the road Mike and Rick pulled alongside me in their work truck. Mike said, “You talked to my girl last night. Thank you, I think she really needed that.” I didn’t do anything special. I do not have anyone’s answer. But this is what can happen when we open up our hearts to everyone, to strangers. She called me a few times over the next three months or so and said she was doing much better and trying real hard because of her babies. Whatever it takes to get your eyes off of yourself, off your pain. LOVE LIFE, and all the human beings that inhabit this world with us.