Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Simply Grateful (Eastern New Orleans, LA)

Mike, me & Leonard at the Mennonite Disaster Service building in East New Orleans on Monday night

Before I walk my final 8 miles along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain and then south along Elysian Fields into the French Quarter, I want to say nothing more profound than thank you. Thank you to every single one of you who opened your doors, shared dinner with me, gave me a place to stay, and offered me your friendship. Thanks to those who bought me lunch. To those who followed along with this blog and commented with words of encouragement or emailed me directly to share their thoughts and cheer me on. Thanks to those I met at other people's houses or at churches or restaurants and - without exception - greeted me and my journey with enthusiasm and delight. Thanks to ALL of you for making this trip what it was. Without you I would have been walking across America with nowhere to stay and no one to share my joy with. Because of you this trip was a rich tapestry of fun, learning, adventure and, most of all, the shared experience of human kindness.

Last night I stayed at the Mennonite Disaster Service headquarters in Eastern New Orleans where Mike and Leonard took me in on a cold day and reinvigorated me with the warmth of their friendship and their humor. MDS has been in New Orleans since right after Katrina, providing invaluable assistance to families trying to rebuild their homes by offering free labor to those in need. This house hosts groups of volunteers week after week who willingly put their lives on hold for a time to come here and give of themselves for a greater communal good. As such, this was a fitting place for me to spend my last night before arriving in Jackson Square. It represents the transition I will now gradually begin to make. After more than four months being the vulnerable traveler, the one in need of warmth, food and friendship, I can go back to my own community and start being the one who provides those very same things to people who come past my doorstep, both literally and figuratively.

As I walk early this afternoon I will go through my mental rolodex and picture every single home I have stayed in. I will say the name of my friends who welcomed me there and spend a moment in gratitude for that specific night ... that unique experience. By the time I get to my 101st exercise in gratitude, I will likely be most of my way to Jackson Square. I can't think of any better way to get there than overflowing with thanks.

I'll have a final post in a few days and then this phase of my writing will be done. A longer, more reflective period will pass before I have an opportunity to revamp the design of this website more professionally and create a final telling of the story I want to share - with video, new essays, images and a few of my favorite blog posts reproduced and re-edited. That will take a number of months.

For now, I am simply going to enjoy my last day. Poorman walking, in gratitude.

Note: The Mennonite Disaster Service is a very, very worthy group fueled by the spirit of compassion and thousands of volunteers. If you are considering donating to a charity this season, please visit their website and see if you feel called to support their work. I can tell you from my experience that they are truly doing amazing work. Here is their website: Mennonite Disaster Services.


  1. What am I going to do without your blog to feed my sense of adventure?? Oh, well, guess I'll just be hearing you on NPR soon!

  2. Wow, Garth! I can't believe you've made it to NOLA. That's a long haul from chilly Charlottesville. It's been great to follow you along the way and to be a part of your journey. Keep on keeping on.

  3. Garth, this has been the most fun keeping track of you. Do you have any idea how much you inspire the people you have met? I've had all kinds of exciting thoughts and conversations since meeting you. You are doing something amazing!

  4. Congrats Garth on the home stretch. Your journey has been an inspiration to many.

  5. So glad that you are safely on the last leg of your journey, but must say I will miss keeping up with you in the blog world! I have lived vicariously through your adventure and it has been refreshment to my spirit, to read of the kindnesses and comforts that others have shared with you, a stranger, who has now become a friend. How inspiring is that? Phenomenal, in my opinion.
    God bless you in your endeavors and may He always smile upon you. I will be waiting to read your final printing of your encounters. You will notify us when it is complete, won't you?

    One of your many Poorman-walking friends,

    Laura McCann

  6. I have enjoyed your blog since I heard you were in our small town. I have faithfully printed each one and hand delivered it to my 85 year old neighbor who greets me with a smile and excitement when I do. When time had passed and I had not delivered...she would call me and tell me she was ready for her next adventure and chapter. Joanne will miss your blog...and her adventures of traveling through you. You brought joy and excitement to a very mundane life. Thanks. We will look forward to the next update.