To be timely, this column should be about snowfall — or the cold that finally arrived in Ohio. It might be about our week of babysitting with two cats while family members cruise in warm comfort.
Tracing last year's events through the photographs within iPhone albums brought me to one that was a mere happenstance. My turn to water flower baskets on the square for Earth, Wind and Flowers Garden Club came at the end of July. While gathering the hose to store it, a young man crossed the street headed toward me with a compliment about the beauty of our downtown.
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It did not take long to discover Paul Sylvain was walking. That is an understatement. Paul left Indiana July 19 with a backpack, an iPhone, water bottle, some cash and a few food packets, headed for the Statue of Liberty. That morning he said the Ohio State Patrol had snatched him from U.S. Route 30 and delivered him to Nevada, where he thought maybe following the Lincoln Highway might work.
Walking and working on a happier state of mind
His craziness — really boldness — intrigued me. Conversation went on. Paul was working toward a happier state of mind. He was highly philosophical ,but unfolded a practical spirit. The young man's ambition struck me as limitless; he seemed powered along with bravery.
The day was bright as was Paul's outlook. With so little in his backpack I asked about meals and nighttime resting. Many meals were packets that came as a complete unit. Worry was not in his voice as he said, "I know that I will be fed." He found fountains to replenish.
We exchanged photos with him happily standing near the Lincoln Highway sign. When he asked about the nearness of a Walmart, I assured him he was quite close — then handed him money, not enough.
Several times over the next few weeks I left periodic messages. He answered. He sent photos. After Canton he left the Lincoln Highway, taking other routes. Sun did not bother him as much as the rain. He managed showers at truck stops. He slept short nights. He was befriended time after time. One chap offered a ride while Paul babbled about religion then prayed with him. Another friendly soul took him home for a meal, then gave him a jacket.
Destination reached at Lady Liberty
A photograph recorded the sunrise Aug. 31 around 6:30 a.m. as Paul arrived at New Jersey Liberty State Park. Lady Liberty could be seen far away but unmistakable.
Paul wore out two pairs of shoes in his mileage and was able to make it to his grandparents' graves.
This week I found that Paul was walking at Lake Okeechobee headed northward from Miami to Michigan. Unbelievable. The thought of what he is doing frightens the crud out of me.
He can walk distances 26 miles on a good day because he believes in the goodness of humanity, finding unending kindness in strangers. That is faith in its finest form.
Mary Lee Minor is a member of the Earth, Wind and Flowers Garden Club, an accredited master gardener, a flower show judge for the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs and a former sixth grade teacher.
This article originally appeared on Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum: Over the Garden Fence: Paul Sylvain's U.S. trek brings him to Bucyrus