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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Introduction: The Kindness Mission

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Introduction: The Kindness Mission

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
This is the introduction to the book about my 5,000 mile, year long walk across the country. The final version will have links to photos, audio and podcasts about the journey. Feedback on this draft is welcome.
This is the introduction to the book about my 5,000 mile, year long walk across the country. The final version will have links to photos, audio and podcasts about the journey. Feedback on this draft is welcome.

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Jul 08, 2012
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11/12/2012

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Scribd Note: This is the introduction for my next book in progress, Kindness across America, based on a 5,000 mile, year long walk across the country. Feedback is welcome.INTRODUCTION: THE KINDNESS MISSIONI am lucky with my family. I come from a cohesive, loving home. I was a bit spoiled, nodoubt, but fortunately not in the material sense. We were on the lower side of middle class withmy father as the only breadwinner, a common occurrence back in the fifties and sixties. No, I wasspoiled because I was a mistake, or a pleasant surprise depending on one’s point of view.“Bobby, you are much too big for him,” was a common refrain coming from Mom whenthe closest to me, still ten years older, tried to treat me the way brothers often do. Still, we five brothers got along well enough, back then and as the years progressed, even with the “spoiled” onein the bunch. Yes, I am lucky with my family.I am lucky with my community. Norfolk, Connecticut has about 1600 people, about thesame size as in colonial times, give or take a few hundred over the years. We know each other and,in large measure, we care for each other. We help out our neighbors and they help us. I wouldtrust every one of my surrounding neighbors with anything; I hope they feel the same way aboutme and Cindy.I am lucky with my church. I grew up fiercely independent and innately empirical. That isto say, experience is everything to me. Seeing is believing. I was not likely to go along with thedictates of some remote Pope or faceless hierarchy. A Congregational Church so named becausecongregations worked out their faith in what transcends us on their own terms, well, that suited mefine. I was agnostic for awhile, but once I had my experiential revelations of God while in thewilderness I came back to the Congregational fold and have loved, and been well loved, by mychurch ever since.I am lucky with college. The dorm I landed in was the first one on campus to go coed myfreshman year. The novelty has long since worn off but back then, in a dormitory complex calledthe Jungle, making my dorm coed tamed the savage beasts. During my junior year four of usdouble bunked in one room and left the other for social gatherings … for the entire floor. The door was left unlocked, including on the weekend even if all four of us were gone. Admittedly the bunk room with four guys acquired an earthy odor, but our parlor room was enjoyed by all. At the endof the year there was the matter of one album missing; we suspect someone just forgot to return it.I am lucky with backpacking expeditions I led, and I led many. On journeys of thousandsof miles lasting several months we lived socially as early nomads lived. That is to say, we caredfor each other, treated each other equally, lived responsibly for each other and derived much pleasure from journeying with each other. If such social behavior by either early or modernnomads should surprise you, well, you are one of a great many “Enlightenment” victims having been misinformed about our inherent natures.I am lucky with the way local people treated us backpacking nomads whenever we entereda town to resupply. People opened up their homes to us, providing warmth and, more importantly,warm company. Some of the best memories of my life are the town stops along the trail. Thehospitality we received as nomads reminds me of a quote by an early European pioneer come tothis country: “Savages pride themselves on being hospitable to strangers.” Maybe we all should be “savages” after all. Yes, I've been lucky during my wayfaring years and throughout my life.I say I must be lucky because according to many folks, including some of great authorityand scholarship, we are savages in a bestial way, at least in terms of natural sociability and
 
kindness. No surprise that the aforementioned pioneer was a product of the Enlightenment.Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Hobbes coined the famous quote that the natural condition of man was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Even an Enlightenment philosopher who adored Native Americans, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, referred to them as “noble savages” that lived solitarylives. Considering the real truth later documented by cultural anthropologists about highly socialearly nomads, Rousseau could not be more misguided in his condescension to our savage,“solitary” nature.Enlightenment misdirection about our social nature carries over to modern times. The fieldof economics blossomed during the Enlightenment. No one should be surprised then that moderneconomists claim economics drives us, and self-interest drives economics. No less an esteemed scholar than Stephen Hawkins claimed that we need reason to save usfrom our instincts, from a scholastic lineage that admittedly goes back further than theEnlightenment, back to Plato and the dawn of civilization. Dr. Hawkins must fancy himself a philosopher as well as a scientist, but he obviously has not done his homework in regards to whatis natural about the human condition. We are social, instinctively and “uncivilly” so. Plato andEnlightenment philosophers at least had an excuse for this ignorance, coming before the dawn of enlightened, empirically driven cultural anthropology.Certainly there is fuel for Hawkins’ pessimism about natural humanity. Mass media broadcasts our failures for both news and entertainment constantly. I wrote a book myself detailing the antisocial problems facing American society, titled
Systems out of Balance: How Misinformation Hurts the Middle Class
. Being misinformed about who we are naturally,downplaying the empathy and kindness that naturally reside in us and seeks to be expressed insmall band societies, exacerbates our antisocial civilized condition.Ah, but I’m an optimist at heart, no doubt due to being so “lucky” with all my socialcontacts throughout life. At a time when I struggled from becoming a writer and musician, and mywife Cindy struggled from the stress of being a visiting nurse, we decided on a bold move thatwould draw upon our greatest passion. With 21,000 miles of combined backpacking experiencefrom a younger day to our credit, we decided to add 10,000 more between us. Along the way wewould cure Cindy’s stress and spread the good news: “Believe in Humanity!” People tend to liveup or down to the expectations society holds of us. We wanted to raise expectations for thekindness of humanity and the virtues of community to address Housing, Health and Hunger.The idea was born for walking 5,000 miles across America, mostly along the AmericanDiscovery Trail (ADT). Our previous economic pursuit of happiness proved unhealthy for Cindyand unproductive for me. With not much to lose we could afford to take the time off. We wouldtake exactly one year to complete the journey; one leap year actually, we needed an extra day (oneof our standard jokes on the journey). If we hiked for a year during a down economy at least wewould not spend much money for a year, then I could add struggling speaker to my resume as well(another standard joke). I cashed in a small retirement account of mine to cover the year’sexpense.Most of those expenses were from funding a support vehicle and person, Ky Byrne. Kywas another “lucky” person like me, growing up in Norfolk with both of us now living in thehouses we were raised in. No small coincidence that she also believes in the virtues of community.Ky would meet us with supplies; find places for us to stay when needed, particularly in populatedareas; and help with my speaking engagements across the country. Ky is a curious person, eager toexplore natural, cultural and historical events across America. These passions turned her into our 
 
interpretive guide as well for the journey.The speaking engagements and their purpose for the journey evolved as we hiked. Beforethe journey started I targeted Lions Clubs only. Cindy and I were both Lions and well aware of thecommunity-based, humanitarian mission of these 45,000 clubs across the world. Surely we couldfind enough clubs along our route willing to hear a “Believe in Humanity” message from a fellowLion. Before we took our first step I had about 20 potential engagements lined up, depending onhow certain things followed through.I figured on lining up more Lions talks during the course of the journey, but then oneevening in Fruita, Colorado we camped by two golfers who were in the area for a tournament. DanBrunson and Chris Fitting were much younger than the typical Lions Club membership. Theyloved my message calling for more community involvement and encouraged me to start reachingout to the young through college venues. So I did, starting in neighboring Grand Junction. Later on I was asked to give a presentation to an elementary school near Kansas City, followed by highschool talks in Indiana. Schools became my preferred targets.We often sought out churches to stay at when passing through towns. Pastor Erick Olsenfrom our own church back home was enthused about making contacts with UCC ministers acrossthe country on our behalf, vouching for our integrity and purpose. The UCC does not have a large presence in the west and we soon reached out to other churches as well, seeking floor space for oneor more nights. I did not consider speaking engagements to faith-based groups in the beginning.Yet preaching to an enthusiastic audience always lifts the spirit and inevitably I spoke to faith- based groups as well: at meetings; at Sunday school and Bible studies; even providing a laysermon.My speaking engagements followed a general format of providing some bad news aboutthe systemic problems behind Housing, Health, Hunger, along with waning communityinvolvement. Much of this was based on the research for my
Systems out of Balance
book. I thenemphasized the good news of why we were meant to be kind and involved in community. If time permitted I would go on to speak of experiences during our journey and ideas for how we can getmore community involvement. If the venue permitted I also played guitar and/or showed slides of our journey.Another purpose evolved during the hike. As I kept a blog about our journey most of theentries included some type of kindness, either the kindness communities extend to their own or thekindness extended to us. I went with the flow and renamed my blog as the “Kindness Blog. Speaking would remain on the table, but instead of that being the primary objective I aimed to belike Johnny Appleseed: observing, advocating and sprouting seeds of kindness by drawingattention to its abundance.You tend to find what you look for in life. You look for trouble; you find trouble. You look for kindness; you find kindness. We found abundant kindness all across America from west to eastcoast, from mountain to prairie, from farmland to city. Along the way our mission turned into a pilgrimage, all the more humbling as we learned more about the kindness of Americans than wecould preach. In these chapters I weave the purpose of our mission with what we learned from our  pilgrimage.This book is not the first documentation of the journey, that would be the journal on myweb site. In addition to that journal I maintained aHiking Humanitarian Facebook page; a Hiking Humanitarian You Tubechannel,Humanity Hiker Twitter  account andHumanity Hiker  Photobucketalbums. I was plugged in during the journey and, in the age of electronic readers, so

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