Thursday, September 17, 2009

Make that check payable to .... (Princeton Junction)

Martha Mikel and Yang Hong grew up worlds apart. Martha was reared in rural Iowa, Yang in the eastern region of Mainline China. In the early 80s they briefly switched places. Yang came to study at Penn State University and Martha visited China through a program at Goshen College. It would have been a story of two airplanes passing in the night had Martha not had taught one of Yang's younger brothers while in China. That led to her eventually being given Yang's contact info. His family knew Yang would enjoy having someone in the US to talk with about China. When she returned to the US, Martha spent an extended period of time in Arizona recuperating from an illness contracted overseas. She and Yang struck up a friendship over the phone. One day she got a check in the mail from Yang for $100. He had found out that she liked ice cream and wanted her to have money to buy all she needed.

If that isn't one of the sweetest stories I've heard on this trip, it's definitely in the top three. The story of how two people meet is fascinating to me. The twists and turns. The distances. The small acts of human kindness that end up cementing something much larger.

The story of how Martha and Yang, a Sacred Music graduate student and an itinerant walker came to be sitting around a dinner table on Thursday night in Princeton Junction is a good bit more straight forward. Martha and Yang decided to list their home in the Mennonite Your Way Hospitality Directory. I had a copy and contacted them about staying the night. They graciously said yes even though they already housing Rob, studying at Westminster Choir College. Together the five of us made an interesting, if motley, crew of diners munching on Chinese dumplings, ground turkey and spices in lettuce wraps. It would be un-Garthian to not finish a meal as tasty as that with dessert, so we each made room for Martha's fruit cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream.

Behind where we were eating I couldn't help but notice an interesting piece of furniture. Yang has a full sized hammock set up in their living room. Of course, I had to give it a spin. Here's my verdict: Indoor hammocks are vastly underrated. Most people use them outside only, but is there any good reason for that? Outside they can deliver four or five months of enjoyment max. Indoors it is a gift that keeps on giving year-round. I'm going to file that idea away for future use, so don't be surprised if you visit me one day and find me swaying away in my living room while watching a tennis match.

Yang, their daughter Lydia and Rob were all out of the house early the next morning. I was due to leave at 8am, but then Martha ran an interesting proposition past me. She had told her chiropractor about my walk and he wanted to give me a free adjustment. Carrying around 25 pounds on my back for 6 hours a day can't be best strategy for my long term lumbar health, so I decided to take him up on the offer. Fifteen minutes later and a couple-a-few hits with a 40-lb accu-pressure device and my vertebrae were better adjusted than ... well, probably ever. I'd never been to a chiropractor. For a first experience Dr. Schulmann couldn't have made it any easier. If you are in Grover's Corner (home to Orson Wells' famous War of the Worlds farce) look him up. Tell him the walking Poorman sent you.

I now count myself as one of the beneficiaries of Martha and Yang's long distance love story. And if any eligible woman wants to send me a $100 check so I keep myself in raspberry pies for the next four months, don't hesitate to do so. Maybe, just maybe, I'll make an honest woman out of you.


  1. I don't know if I'm the only one noticing this(or it's something to do with my IE), but I'm not able to see the updates on the day it says they are posted. Seems like some lag, but maybe not. I don't think Thursday was showing up when we checked on Friday.

  2. Where should I mail the check?