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 MISSION I am lucky with my family. I come from a cohesive, loving home. I was a bit spoiled, no doubt, but fortunately not in the material sense. We were on the lower side of middle class with my father as the only breadwinner, a common occurrence back in the fifties and sixties. No, I was spoiled 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 when the 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” one in the bunch. Yes, I am lucky with my family. I am lucky with my community. Norfolk, Connecticut has about 1600 people, about the same 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 would trust every one of my surrounding neighbors with anything; I hope they feel the same way about me and Cindy. I am lucky with my church. I grew up fiercely independent and innately empirical. That is to say, experience is everything to me. Seeing is believing. I was not likely to go along with the dictates of some remote Pope or faceless hierarchy. A Congregational Church so named because congregations worked out their faith in what transcends us on their own terms, well, that suited me fine. I was agnostic for awhile, but once I had my experiential revelations of God while in the wilderness I came back to the Congregational fold and have loved, and been well loved, by my church ever since. I am lucky with college. The dorm I landed in was the first one on campus to go coed my freshman year. The novelty has long since worn off but back then, in a dormitory complex called the Jungle, making my dorm coed tamed the savage beasts. During my junior year four of us double 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 end of 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 thousands of miles lasting several months we lived socially as early nomads lived. That is to say, we cared for 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 modern nomads 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 entered a 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. The hospitality we received as nomads reminds me of a quote by an early European pioneer come to this 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 authority and 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 solitary lives. Considering the real truth later documented by cultural anthropologists about highly social early 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 field of economics blossomed during the Enlightenment. No one should be surprised then that modern economists claim economics drives us, and self-interest drives economics. No less an esteemed scholar than Stephen Hawkins claimed that we need reason to save us from our instincts, from a scholastic lineage that admittedly goes back further than the Enlightenment, 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 what is natural about the human condition. We are social, instinctively and “uncivilly” so. Plato and Enlightenment 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 in small 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 social contacts throughout life. At a time when I struggled from becoming a writer and musician, and my wife Cindy struggled from the stress of being a visiting nurse, we decided on a bold move that would draw upon our greatest passion. With 21,000 miles of combined backpacking experience from a younger day to our credit, we decided to add 10,000 more between us. Along the way we would cure Cindy’s stress and spread the good news: “Believe in Humanity!” People tend to live up or down to the expectations society holds of us. We wanted to raise expectations for the kindness 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 American Discovery Trail (ADT). Our previous economic pursuit of happiness proved unhealthy for Cindy and unproductive for me. With not much to lose we could afford to take the time off. We would take exactly one year to complete the journey; one leap year actually, we needed an extra day (one of our standard jokes on the journey). If we hiked for a year during a down economy at least we would 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’s expense. Most of those expenses were from funding a support vehicle and person, Ky Byrne. Ky was another “lucky” person like me, growing up in Norfolk with both of us now living in the houses 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 populated areas; and help with my speaking engagements across the country. Ky is a curious person, eager to explore 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. Before the journey started I targeted Lions Clubs only. Cindy and I were both Lions and well aware of the community-based, humanitarian mission of these 45,000 clubs across the world. Surely we could find enough clubs along our route willing to hear a “Believe in Humanity” message from a fellow Lion. Before we took our first step I had about 20 potential engagements lined up, depending on how certain things followed through. I figured on lining up more Lions talks during the course of the journey, but then one evening in Fruita, Colorado we camped by two golfers who were in the area for a tournament. Dan Brunson and Chris Fitting were much younger than the typical Lions Club membership. They loved my message calling for more community involvement and encouraged me to start reaching out 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 high school talks in Indiana. Schools became my preferred targets. We often sought out churches to stay at when passing through towns. Pastor Erick Olsen from our own church back home was enthused about making contacts with UCC ministers across the 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 one or 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 faithbased groups as well: at meetings; at Sunday school and Bible studies; even providing a lay sermon. My speaking engagements followed a general format of providing some bad news about the systemic problems behind Housing, Health, Hunger, along with waning community involvement. Much of this was based on the research for my Systems out of Balance book. I then emphasized 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 get more 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 the entries included some type of kindness, either the kindness communities extend to their own or the kindness 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 be like Johnny Appleseed: observing, advocating and sprouting seeds of kindness by drawing attention 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 east coast, 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 we could 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 my web site. In addition to that journal I maintained a Hiking Humanitarian Facebook page; a Hiking Humanitarian You Tube channel, Humanity Hiker Twitter account and Humanity Hiker Photobucket albums. I was plugged in during the journey and, in the age of electronic readers, so

is this book. I provide links to journal entries, podcasts, photo albums and media coverage corresponding to the journey, including some created just for these chapters. For example, before the journey started I created two podcasts to reinforce the message that we are kind to each other (“You are a humanitarian”) and that Housing, Health and Hunger are not such pressing issues in small band societies (“Housing, Health, Hunger”). A university radio interview conducted just before the journey also did a good job of revealing the journey's mission. Each chapter includes tales of kindness and somewhat chronological accounts of the journey. A few chapters delve into deeper issues that touch upon kindness. With kindness occurring in such abundance I could not fit all the kind people into the pages of this one book. Instead, I end chapters with links to photos of people met corresponding to each section, deferring to the wisdom that a picture is worth a thousand words. By “people met” I refer to people with whom we at least had conversations, much like two neighbors chatting over the fence. These people took an interest in us and we in them. We will not see most of the “people met” ever again, yet they contribute to the overall impression that under conditions independent from mass society people are kind and neighborly even to strangers. While breaking in through California we were less inclined to meet people, then through Nevada and Utah there were less people to meet. Also, I did not keep an official tally of “people met” in the beginning, just as my online journal did not start out as the “Kindness Blog.” Only after we were being overwhelmed by kindness and the numbers of people met that I figured: “Gee, I better keep an official record of this.” Due to the limitations of memory, in the context of overwhelming numbers over the course of a year, my tallies for “People Met” in states west of the Rockies fall short of reality. I bring this up to make a point. A consensus of previous ADT hikers we asked deemed Kansas the friendliest state, with Indiana perhaps a close second. We did not find that to be true. Rather, we found people everywhere kind and friendly in the situations of our encounters. We had but a handful of trivial negative encounters over the course of 366 days, with no more than one occurring for any particular state. Otherwise, people are people everywhere, blessed with empathy and predisposed towards being social and kind when not immersed in conditions brought about by civilization. Our journey on the American Discovery Trail was blessed with kindness before we even started. As the chair of our church’s Missions and Benevolence committee it was my turn to give the Light of Service on the Sunday before we left for the west coast. Each week our collection offering goes to a charity, with details of the charity provided during the Light of Service. As I stood up to fulfill my duty I was told to sit back down. The incoming chair gave the Light of Service instead, and the charity was our journey across America, informing communities of the need to address Housing, Health and Hunger. The collection gathered four times the usual amount. My brother Ernie contributed more than he should have to our cause. His son Scott, a carpenter like his Dad, volunteered his labor to outfit Ky’s minivan for the long journey. My brother Bob came down from New Hampshire a few days before we left to see us off. That is what families do, reinforce constructive behaviors. Our church family held a potluck gathering the evening we left, in lieu of choir practice. We would be encouraging potlucks across the country as an expression of community; this became the first one. My band The Bards of Balance performed a few songs and people generously bought items we had for sale to help fund our journey. The potluck closed with a prayer circle. I recall with some irony now that the major theme of that prayer circle was blessings for our safety. Why

is that ironic? I'll come back to that. We headed over to our house for the final packing and to say good-bye to our daughters Charissa and Serena, having said good-bye previously to our son Noah. Charissa had the large responsibility of taking care of the house in our absence; with her in charge we never worried about our home during the course of our journey. Later on I asked Charissa what we often were asked during the hike: “What do your kids think of this?” Charissa replied: “That’s just our parents being normal.” Ky drove her minivan and small camper to the bottom of our driveway. We loaded up in the pouring rain and left for California. Rain would turn out to be a prominent feature of our year long journey. Fortunately, so would kindness.

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