The curly-haired brunette had passed me with a smile as she jogged through the park with her dog. I smiled back, outwardly composed, inwardly – with a jolt in my stomach – wondering what she thought of my overstuffed car and makeshift kitchen in her neighborhood park. It’s funny how living out of a vehicle makes you more self-conscious of appearing dejected and homeless.
I went on and rinsed my dishes in the mountain river water of Wyoming in true Huck Finn fashion.
Emerging from the riverbank with dripping pots in hand, I prepared to pack up my car and get ready for the long haul to Colorado.
From behind, her muddy voice surprised me as it broke the quiet. “You’ve got a cool vibe. Where you from?”
I smiled at her friendly greeting, admiring the shyness that she lacked.
“I drove here from Maryland…just road tripping across the USA.”
A lively conversation ensued. Her name was Emily. We both were teachers, me of English, she of Math. She had two degrees and a dream to teach charter school kids – 2 degrees more admirable than the the string of elite boarding school kids I freelanced with.
To my comfort, she talked about the clean water and how refreshing it is to jump in the river after her runs. (Being on the road, one can never be too sure, though I risked it for the sake of cleaned dishes, anyway!)
“Listen, if you need a place to stay the night, take my number. I genuinely mean it; I’d love to help you out. Take it. If you change your plans and don’t drive out tonight, just call me up.”
I saw her as the responsible entity that I sought to be.
She felt I was living the dream, a dream she hoped to pursue one day very soon.
That day, I left for Colorado a tinge lighter than when I had come in to Wyoming.
I derived from this experience that open kindness comes in many shapes and forms. And honest, compassionate souls read each other as clearly as words on paper.
It also became clear to me that my decision to choose adventure and escape the mundane was the envy of others. I made a selfish choice to pursue the thing I love most: an exploration of new places through my senses. My selfish choice enacted a selfless piece of inspiration from a kind teacher across the country.
The adventure of your life speaks for itself. Had I stifled my affinity for exploration across the USA, I might never have touched Emily’s soul. Today, I still hope to goodness that I actually did.
Next I heard, Emily was helping her best friend move across the country – by car. And she was having the time of her life.
The gift and contagion of adventure was a small package: a smile, a hello and staying on the path of myself.