Monday, October 7, 2013

2 rules...

I have two rules. The first rule is I have to walk every mile. This is nonnegotiable. Now, I know you’ve seen pictures of LeeRoy in a car here and there, and we do end up driving around with people all the time. Those are always people taking us to their houses; we call it host homes. They let us stay there for the night, but in the morning they have to take me right back to where they picked me up. I am walking every single mile. There have been a few times, especially when I get picked up at night, that in the morning I have a hard time finding the exact location of where I stopped walking. There is no real mile marker so I oftentimes have walked an extra mile or two just to be sure.  I backtrack and have them drop me off at the last thing that I remember. There is at least a good extra 30 miles that I have walked in the course of the last year and a half.
My second rule has kind of developed on the road. People have gone out of their way so many times to help me. People drive out to the middle of nowhere to give me water and bags of goat feed that are way too heavy for us to carry. I feel that it is disrespectful to ever say no to them. I think of it like this, out of the hundreds of people that pass me each day and just stare, they are the few that have made extra effort to make this trip a little easier for LeeRoy and I. There is no way I would ever want to not accept their generosity in any way. If we have to carry a little extra weight, we’ll do it. There have been a couple of times that people have brought me some pretty strange food. I ate it, no questions asked. And here is an even more questionable one—“Here take these pills. They will help your joints. They will help your back”. Okay, done deal. Pop them in my mouth, swallow them down and pray to God that it isn’t something that will kill me. That’s the truth. I can’t even tell you how many times people have just handed me a strange pill. Oh man, I need to rethink this..HAHA. So, my second rule is that I always say yes. Would you like some water? Yes. Would you like to stay at my house tonight? Yes. Will you come to my house so my kids can meet you? Yes. Will you come to the senior center so the seniors can meet you? Yes. Would you go fishing? Yes. Would you be in our parade? Yes. There have been some other strange requests. I say yes to those too. I’m trying to think of some of the weird ones…
In any case, if at all possible, I try to always say yes. I want to be accommodating to everybody in any way I can. That does make my trip go a lot slower, but it is worth it. I think we miss out on so many opportunities when we say no. I have made a handful of life-long friend because of saying yes. Darren in Puyallup Washington, Tracy in Portland, Mitch and Lacey in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, Lacey in Salt Lake, Farmer James in Price, Utah, Andrea and Shaun in Vernal, Utah, Channing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Maloney in Steamboat Springs, I could keep going. The point is, all of these people still keep in touch and they know the behind-the-scenes of needle2square because I said yes.
I’m going to let you guys in on some inside trading information (Martha Stewart style). As I meet and talk with people everyday they’ll say, “Can we donate online? Where can we give online? How can we get involved?” They get me excited by their enthusiasm. They are really committed to investing into what we’re trying to do, or so they make it seem. I think to myself often, if everybody who I have met that said they are going to donate online actually truly did donate, we would’ve raised $500,000 already. But in reality, maybe, 1 out of 100 will even donate online. I never want my heart to get jaded. I am truly grateful for everyone who has donated and I want to always keep that the focus. I know that I am supposed to be faithful to walk. I have faith that the Lord is going to raise this money, but that little bit of information is like a splinter in my mind. That one little statistic. I want to move past that thought and focus on just a few examples of some really cool things that people have done for me along the way.
When I was in Winter Park, CO a lady who worked at one of the major resorts had gotten LeeRoy and I a free room. They used barricades to block off a huge part of the front area where LeeRoy could hang out. They had the maintenance people check on LeeRoy. The window to my room was right where LeeRoy was at. I could literally open my window to pet him and feed him and stuff. It was awesome. Eventually, there was a huge storm. They allowed me to bring LeeRoy into my room. I even brought in some hay, which can be really messy. That kind of stuff is awesome.
I’ll give you another example of some really cool stuff that happened while I was there. I had spent a few days in Winter Park. During that time LeeRoy had gotten some pretty bad…he’d gotten a little sick. So, here is the cool thing. When I was at Kate’s BBQ one of the couples there wanted to meet the next day for breakfast. During that time, they offered me their van to drive in town and run errands. Go to the bank, go to the grocery store, go to the post office, things like that while I waited for LeeRoy to get better.
Here’s the thing, my parents would barley let me drive their cars. In fact, I never drove my Dad’s car and I only drove my Mom’s car like 2 times. The faith and trust they had in a complete stranger is pretty awesome. I want to be like that. I want to live like that. The risk they took, the value of what it would cost them if something did happen makes that simple act of them being vulnerable to the possibility of getting screwed over by a stranger so much more valuable to me (Crazy, long, run-on sentence—read it again to make sure you got it all. Haha). It is so crazy, the risk they took. They give me a stick of gum, “Hey thanks.” They give me a car to drive around, “Whoa!” I don’t know, it just meant a lot to me. I left there with the sense that people trust me. They believe in me. They believe in what I am doing. They respect me.  And I’ve understood that, but I think the full weight hasn’t hit me until now.
I walked over Bertha pass. As I was coming off Bertha Pass I was thinking about putting myself in the shoes of other people that are seeing this homeless, smelly guy walking a goat around. The idea of them investing, the people who have invested, the people who have invited me into their homes, their homes with young children, me being around their young children. I don’t know if before this project if I had my own family and I saw a similar sight on the side of the road, I’m not so sure I would’ve been that person to invite them into my home, especially if I had kids. If I had taken the time to meet that person, it would be different. But before this I was so focused on myself, the day to day life that I had before starting this project that I would not have stopped to find out what was going on. I probably would’ve been that guy that posted a picture of it on my Facebook and Instagram and made absolute fun of it; not taking a moment to talk to the person and find out what their story was.  It says some amazing things about the character of those people that do stop and find out, and take me in.
When I finally got to the bottom of Bertha Pass, another amazing time happened. I can’t remember this lady’s name. Ma’am, please know that I am sorry I can’t remember your name, but I will never forget you. Her part in this story spanned a like good 3 weeks of my walking. I had met her previously and we had chatted a bit. When I got to the bottom of Bertha Pass I stopped at a little restaurant; kind of out of the way. My goat was tied up on the side; you couldn’t see him from the street. I was inside starting to eat.
I turn around and I’m trying to plug my cell phone into the wall and when I turn back around this woman is sitting there. Kind of scared me.  It was out of nowhere. She brought some fruit for LeeRoy and I. She brought a donation for the kids. She had glasses. Shorter, thin woman. Very soft spoken. I couldn’t tell if she was just painfully shy or super nervous. She may have been her in mid-40’s. She had the kind of hands that didn’t have very much muscle and meat on them. It was skin over bones with really small wrists. I think her hair was probably pretty naturally curly. We chatted and I watched her mannerisms. How she talked. How she moved. There is something very interesting about her. Something in the nervousness. We went outside and she pet LeeRoy. We said our goodbyes. We had exchanged numbers and would text during the week, Facebook during the week.
Fast forward about a week later. It was actually more like a week and a half probably. I’m sitting with LeeRoy at a McDonald’s on the edge of the parking lot in the grass by a tree. And there she is. She just shows up with more wonderful gifts. She feeds LeeRoy some carrots and apples. She loves animals, you can definitely tell that. Seeing her care for LeeRoy, I could tell she probably felt safer with animals than with people. She felt more secure and confident around them. I don’t know how she knew I was such a being fan of cigars, but she brought me one. It was a fairly nice cigar. It definitely put a smile on my face. We talked for a little bit and I tried to get to know her. She would answer questions in a way that makes you think she is short of breath. She was struggling to get it out. She didn’t make much eye contact. We mainly just stared at the goat. Her eyes start welling up and by the end she was completely in tears. “You have changed my life. What you are doing, who you are. You have inspired me, and it is clear that you are inspiring so many other people”. That was the first time she had talked somewhat smoothly. I was so taken back by her words, the sincerity in her voice and the look in her eye that I started to tear up. It was a very touching moment.
The weight of her words has not left my heart. My main goal has been to change these kids’ lives. I didn’t see or understand that it would be so inspirational to so many other people. And now I completely take that into consideration. It is absolutely important to invest in the people that I meet and is now something that I look forward to on a day to day basis; not just raising money for the kids. 


  1. May the Lord keep you safe and bless you throughout your journey...Good luck to you Steve.