Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Doing The Coincidence Shuffle

Moving in silent desperation
Keeping an eye on the holy land
A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?*

"We need to slow down and start taking care of each other more, not just as Christians but just as human beings."
- Don Vermilyea

My mind is wandering today, which now seems only appropriate.

As I was pulling into our driveway this morning I heard on the radio that every hour you spend walking you get back 15 fold. I don't know where that statistic came from or if it's true, however I found it an odd coincidence.

One of the things I started writing about yesterday, and then scrubbed, was walking. I wrote down a couple of things, but the idea didn't seem to be leading me anywhere so I abandoned it, figuring maybe it would gel another day.

Today is that day, although admittedly I'm still not exactly certain where I'm headed.

Back in July I mentioned that Tiffany, our eldest child, had given me a pedometer to use while walking. I've been using it religiously although a couple of months ago it dawned on me that it was sort of silly to reset it daily since I walk the same distance every day. So I have let it simply click off the miles for the past couple of months and every once in a while I'll glance at it to see how far I've walked since the last reset. I checked it today and it shows in the past two months or so I've walked a little over 169 miles.

I would be fairly impressed with that figure if I hadn't gone to work this morning and found a story about a man named
Don Vermilyea.

He was walking along a highway in San Antonio yesterday and someone called the radio station to ask what we knew about him. We didn't know anything so we went to find out.

This is what we learned - last year Don walked 4,732 miles.
The year before he walked 4,126...and in 2002 he meandered close to 4000.

He is a member of the church of the Brethren and is visiting like minded congregations all over the country...the hard way...on foot. He hopes to visit every congregation of his church in the country and figures he'll be 2012.

Yes, 2012. He's planning to walk every day, averaging about 22 miles per day, for the next seven years.

Our reporter did ask the question that's probably also rumbling toward your lips right about now: Why?

His response was, "The only reason I walk is for the Lord."

This isn't one of those deals where there's a van following behind him and he hops in at night to sleep, or where there are people all along the way offering him food and shelter. For the most part he doesn't have any idea where he's staying from one night to the next and he travels alone. So far this week he's slept in a drainage culvert (not a wise thing to do by the way, storms can rise up rather quickly around here) and a horse barn.

He's currently walking to Falfurrias, in deep South Texas.

I've been to Falfurrias. It was a number of years ago, but I went there to do a feature story about Don Jaramillo, a legendary "curandero" or healer whom a lot of people in this part of the world consider something of a saint.

It wasn't the most memorable was only a three hour drive, but there is not much between San Antonio and Falfurrias besides scrub brush and cactus. Don Jaramillo died in 1907, but there is a makeshift shrine to him on the outskirts of Falfurrias where people go to pray, to light candles, and to leave photographs of loved ones in need of healing.

The shrine is tended to by the operators of a gift shop, right inside the gates of a cemetery.

It's an unusual place.

It's 169 miles from San Antonio.

So today has been a day of strange coincidences.

I'm not sure what to think about them.

I also don't know what to think about people who feel compelled by God to embark on treks like Don Vermilyea. In truth I'm still somewhat puzzled by the people I met years ago who left their driver's licenses or photos of loved ones at a slightly tacky shrine to a curandero who died decades earlier.

I didn't know where I was going when I started writing today; I'm not sure Don Vermilyea knows where he's going either.

I can't get over the feeling though that we're both being led, and I suppose that's the most important thing.

One side note I can't resist: Don Vermilyea says so far he's found $910.27 in change along the highways he's walked.

More on Don Vermilyea
More on Don Jaramillo
* Walking Man by James Taylor