Imagine waking up Monday morning, ready for the work commute, but instead of sliding into your car, you slid into a pair of sneakers? You would walk out your front door and be greeted by everyone else in the neighborhood because no one was driving. You were all walking the five to 10 miles to work.
Can you imagine the conversations that would happen during those commutes? Can you imagine the joys and the sufferings that would be shared? Or the ideas that would blossom?
It sounds like a far-fetched scenario, but it’s pretty realistic for a man out in Washington named Dylan Raines. He is an Earth Pilgrim. He walks everywhere he goes. The other day he walked to the Seattle Space Needle.
It was a 16-mile trek to raise money for water wells in South Sudan, but when he got to the Space Needle, it was blurry. Most things in Dylan’s life are blurry. He’s nearly blind.
Dylan’s corneas are misshapen. Ironically he didn’t find out until he was 16 and went in to apply for a driver’s license. Once he reached his early 20s, he knew his driving days were over, so he began relying on his feet.
Today, Dylan says the vision in his right eye is nearly gone, but he can see large objects, like cars, with his left eye. He can’t see road signs until he’s close to them, but he does have glasses that help him use his computer so he can continue his work as a freelance Web designer.
While Dylan’s physical vision is impaired, his spiritual vision is crystal clear.
“I’ve never seen my vision as a disability because it has shown me the beauty of walking. My other senses are heightened. It’s hard for me to judge someone on how they look, so I see things differently. I enjoy that, so I don’t see this as a disability or as something that has hampered me in life.”
Dylan now walks to raise awareness for causes to help transform the lives of people he believes are in the greatest need. Several times a week he walks 15 to 20 miles for causes related to food, water, shelter and adoption.
In March, he walked 100 miles, from Seattle to Canada, to raise awareness and funds to restore water wells in South Sudan. In May, he will walk another 100 miles to raise money to help people pay for adoptions through Liberty Adoption Advocates (libertyscall.org).
Dylan’s first major walk was in April 2015 when he walked 1,000 miles along parts of the California coast and the entire Oregon coast. It was a big unplanned adventure at the time, but the idea of changing the world was birthed step by step through that journey.
Dylan carries a backpack, tent and sleeping bag everywhere he goes and usually stays at state parks or churches, speaking along the way, both to groups of people and to individuals, like the desperate and downtrodden man he met one night at a campground. The man’s wife and son had both died, and the man felt hopeless. In a great act of kindness, Dylan spoke life into that man’s soul. The next morning, they went for coffee and found the man a place to live.
Dylan says, “It’s not about what I can do, but what we can do together. Walking is the first big step toward building community. As we strengthen communities we become aware of how we can help others who are suffering.”
Dylan has set up an organization called Earth Pilgrim (earthpilgrim.net). It is a global NGO (nongovernmental organization) with a mission to inspire people to walk wherever they live for the causes and projects they believe are working to make a better world for us all.
“I’m a traveler and I’d love to connect with people and help them unearth their passion and the impact they want to have in the world.”
Dylan walks in rain, sleet and snow, but he’s not a huge fan of scorching summer days. Perhaps that’s why he says Fargo is definitely on the list of places he hopes to explore on foot. Maybe you’d like to join him.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.