My friend Abby and I spent the last 6 1/2 months walking across the United States to raise money for a homeless shelter where we used to work—and all the wonderful strangers we met made it all the more fulfilling.

The repeated acts of kindness from those who populate this country cannot be overstated; we were fed meals, welcomed into homes, and shown compassion wherever we went. We didn’t want to forget the personalities of the countless people we met, so we decided to write about a few of the notable types of individuals we met.

Strangers who stop

On one single back-country road, about 30 miles outside Indianapolis, all these wonderful interactions happened within one hour of each other.

We had three pickup trucks stop to talk with us, one immediately after the other. The first came offering Cola’s and water. The second, a handsome young guy who loved what we were doing, offered advice on reaching our campsite, and told others down the road about us. The third was a nice older couple, who offered words of encouragement, and later down the road, came out of their home to donate $40 to our homeless organization, JOIN, and to give us water, all while their dogs licked our legs and laid across our feet.

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We had a sun-shaded man with a cigarette dangling from his lips give us $5, and when we explained our reason for walking across America, he donated us another $5, without questioning anything we said.

We had a nice interaction with a man named Rod, who was out fishing with his buddies, and only briefly stopped to chat with us. He left a lasting impression, with a simple handshake, a soft-spoken voice, and a faint smile on his face as he wished us well. And, last, we met Sheldon, an elderly man who ran out of his house at a tortoise’s pace to offer us a ride up the road. This back-country road in rural Indiana left us grateful to have abandoned the main roads for a day.

Strangers who share our passion for walking

A couple weeks ago we received a generous donation to our funding page from a mysterious man named Dave. A day later, we received an email from the same man, offering us a spot to stay in Indianapolis. While we didn’t know who this man was, and weren’t going to be passing him on our route, we reached out to him anyway, and arranged to get dinner with him while in Indianapolis.

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It turns out Dave has dreamt of walking across America since he was a child, and he when he happened to stumble upon our blog one day and saw we that we were walking through Indianapolis, he wanted to contribute in whatever way he could to our journey.

On this trip, we have been continually amazed by the kindness of the strangers, but never had we met someone who held the same dream as us, inspired by the same desire to see the country at a slow pace, and interact with the beautiful people who reside in it. Our dinner with Dave was special. We bonded over our similar experiences with internet trolls, shared stories from the road, and left feeling inspired to continue our walk, knowing we had the support of a new friend in Indianapolis.

Strangers who make us laugh

We got pulled off the highway, out of the heat and into a bar with the promise of air conditioning and soda pop. Our host was wearing a shirt with a giant deer on it that said in bold letters “Stop the Buck.” He told us stories, made us laugh, and, while saying goodbye, said something that rang particularly true for our journey.

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“Hey guys, we need more people like you in the world,” he said.

We responded by saying: “We need more people like you giving us pop,” and he calmly replied with “we can all get where we’re going a lot easier if we go together.”

If there’s anything we’ve learned from two months into our trip, it is that it has been a lot easier to get where we’re going if we rely on the help of strangers along the way.

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