I could feel the chill on my face this morning as I woke. It got below freezing last night and I was thankful again for the warm sleeping bag and wondered what it was like last night for others as they struggled to find a warm dry shelter for the night.
After packing up my tent, I headed over to the OSU/COTC 7th annual Community Intercultural Relations Committee Conference. I have been proud to be a part of this committee, where diversity and inclusiveness is honored. Living United really does call for each of us to delight in the uniqueness of each individual. Valuing diversity and inclusion brings strength to our efforts to make social change and to work toward the common good for our community. I was happy to be able to invite those in attendance to Give, Walk , Do. I also had the privilege of awarding the Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award to David Abraham from the Accel Inc. New businesses coming to the western part of our county will need to welcome diversity and inclusion into their workplace. Thanks David for leading the way.
After leaving the Conference, I took a chilly but sunny walk north up King Road. I enjoyed a bright display of dandelions along the way but was saddened by the amount of litter I saw almost every few feet. As we work hard to strengthen our human communities, we ought to never forget that many of our efforts to improve the lives of children, youth, and family mean little if we are not wise stewards of our natural resources. Licking County is blessed with an abundance of clean water and healthy soil, but we must each do our part to make sure these gifts are there for our future generations.
My walk eventually took me north on a busy section of 21st Street. As I was walking, I looked up to see a middle-aged woman and a younger woman walking toward me. Before I could get a word out of my mouth, she looked at me with all sincerity and asked, “are you ok….are you homeless”? I said “no, but I’m raising awareness about homelessness and many other issues in our county. I’m Deb Dingus, the executive director of Licking County.” She went on to tell me she had wrestled with homelessness and addiction to heroin but that she had beaten it and was now helping others. She said she didn’t have much but she handed me $7.00 and told me her name was Hope. I told her that we were on a journey to build a culture of hope. We hugged and took a picture with her phone and then I was on my way again. About a mile further a young woman in her car pulled over and asked “if I needed a ride”. I said “no”, introduced myself and said that I was walking on purpose to raise awareness about many issues facing our county.
She shared her story of how she was singing and playing her guitar to help raise awareness about drug addiction. We hugged, took a picture, and then I continued on my way to C-Tec. There, I was warmly welcomed by the office staff and offered a hot lunch from their Bistro. I got a tour of the school which is doing some absolutely amazing things to train and prepare both high schoolers and adults for the workforce in many skilled areas. I spoke to a class of high schoolers training in the criminal justice area. We had a discussion about having sensitivity when encountering many of the situations that will occur in their profession, and how choosing compassion and empathy when they respond will make all the difference.
After leaving C-TEC, I headed back south and made my way to Chestnut House where I received a tremendous amount of hospitality. Chestnut House is a Senior Assisted Living with 32 residents. I could barely contain my tears sitting and eating with a few of female residents in their 90’s. Some of the residents struggle with dementia and Alzheimer and I was reminded of my mother who had been diagnosed a few years with Alzheimer's. We have some wonderful programs in Licking County to help our seniors. We all owe so much to our seniors. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They have paved the way for the roads each of us walk today. After dinner, I spoke with the residents and staff about my walk and at the completion they generously gave me $ 1,158.00 that they had raised through various fundraisers. I was deeply moved by all their hospitality and generosity.
Now, once again, I’m inside my tent for the night that I pitched outside in their courtyard. The snow is falling as I wind down my second day, having walked 8 miles and meeting “angels in disguise” all along the way. What a blessed day.