Salem, Oregon- The mighty Willamette runs through this town carving a notch in the hillsides that are now turning golden in the late afternoon’s light. It is understandable why the first settlers made this land the state capitol. A verdant plateau provides higher ground from the tempestuous swelling from the river below after the spring melt, and loam soil so nutrient rich that even the Eastern transplants couldn’t help but be successful farmers.

The city is different now and a somber attitude and a general lack of friendliness pervades the faces and the customs of this historic state’s center. Whitewashed windows and vacant stores seem more the norm than the anomaly. Strip malls and drive-thru Starbucks, cleaners, and even bakeries dot the suburban sprawl, while the the downtown withers somewhat from its former glory.

It was in this downtown though that I was stopped by a group of young professionals out enjoying the summer evening over drinks and fries. A very cordial group, I could hear their laughter from blocks away. It was the hearty, friendly, unabashed laughter that makes you wish you were in on the joke and part of circle. Perhaps the beers had loosened inhibitions, but the merry group called out to me, “Another Peace Artist???”

I replied, “I think I am the only one. Why? Do you know another?”

“Yeah, me!” he replied with a broad grin of a man use to pulling peoples legs. He seemed to be the friendly older brother type, the kind that wouldn’t hurt a fly, but was always pulling someones chain for a laugh both could share. The rest of the group was sharply dressed, but wore it comfortably as if they were familiar with its trappings. The women in the group were very attractive in the non-forced way, and the men, seemed their befitting counterparts. In all there were six, and they seemed to be just leaving.

I gave them the general rundown of my intent and purpose. I told them of the plans and how it has been going so far. They seemed generally interested, and thankful to meet someone else that believed as they do. There was almost a palpable sense that they sympathized to such an extent that their running shoes at home were already laced up ready at a moments notice to join such an event.

And then, almost immediately, they wanted to help. They began digging through their wallets, and although I protested, I could not dissuade their fervor. I left them with the lesson I’d learned from Alison on Sunday, and I said, “I will only take it if you understand that if I see someone I think who has a need for it, I will give it to them. Or I will use it to buy art supplies so that I can do artwork for others.” This condition couldn’t have met with a more hearty and robust approval. And off I ran.

It only took me a couple of blocks before I saw a man that appeared to be in need. One could see his hands were badly crippled up as he sat upon his wheelchair ablaze with American flags. I saluted his patriotism, and struck a conversation. I learned a valuable lesson from Scaughdt while in Florida about approaching people in need and how to help them retain their dignity. I asked if he knew of anyone that were in need of some financial assistance. Asking in this way allows the person to accept the gift for themselves, but are unable to say so. He emphatically gave me explicit instructions about which church to go to which door would be open, and exactly who I was supposed to talk to.

Just as he had said, and just as he had directed me, the First Methodist church doors were open on the side and deep within the hallowed halls I found Miranda. Miranda was in the process of teaching some citizens of various sorts arts and crafts. I pulled her aside, told her of the man who gave the instructions, and ran out of the room before she had time to think or respond.

Earlier in the evening, I had tried to explain to my grandfather what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how. It didn’t go so well. I started the conversation poorly, but he at least understands the logistics. As I was running, I started questioning the endeavor. How would others understand if my own family doesn’t? Then I remembered:

“Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

Meeting the group of generous individuals, then 3 blocks later the man with explicit directions, and Miranda who was serving and loving the community all renewed my faith in what it is I am doing. For the rest of my run tonight, all I could think of was:

“Freely you have received, freely give.”

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