Why I Walk: Cassidy Diaz '19

For the past four months, Jenna Baker has been emailing me, politely asking the Road for Hope walkers to submit a post explaining why we choose to walk 130 miles from Lewiston, Maine to Manchester, New Hampshire in eight days. For the past four months, I have been carefully tossing each email into the trash bin because although I would have loved to write a response for Jenna, I just couldn’t come up with an explanation. My friends responded with beautiful, poetic, elegant reasons for why they walk, but the more I pondered, the faster I realized that I didn’t know why I walk Road For Hope.

29197794866_b7d5c37bc6_oAs I was walking at a park in my town this summer, watching little kids play on the playground, and elderly couples walk their dogs, it hit me that maybe I don’t need to know why I walk Road for Hope. Then, I realized, that this is the exact reason why I walk. I walk to know. I walk to be aware of why I chose to begin the journey in the first place.

I walk to know the community that I live in. I walk to know where and who I am, and I walk to figure out why I do what I do. Sometimes I feel that as a society many of us live in a daze of routine. We wake up, do what we need to do to make it through the day, and go to sleep, and then wake up and do it again. How often do we actually consider why we choose to do what we do, and if it is really our desire to do it?

So I walk to get out of this daze and to become aware of where I am putting my feet and why I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I walk to get to know the people around me as well. Last year, I walked with 40 other people and after 130 miles I knew them all very well.

I was reminded how much I love the people I go to school with and how inspiring and absolutely incredible they all are. Road For Hope reminded me how lucky I am to go to school at Saint Anselm College – a place full of people who give up eight days of their summer for people they do not know and will likely never meet.

But I am leaving out the most important part of Road For Hope: the nine charities. I walk to know and to be aware of the suffering of the community that I live in, there is so much need that I overlook when I am caught up in my own busy schedule during the year. I walk to remind myself that there is a WAY bigger world out there beyond the one that lives inside my head.

I also walk to know my own strength of my body and my mind when faced with adversity. On Road for Hope you get to know yourself quite well. You get to know what your face looks like after eight days of not really showering, you get to know how dependent you are on caffeine after eight days of no coffee, you get to know strength of your legs underneath the weight of a backpack that is way over packed, and you get to know how blessed you are to be able to walk in the first place.

But you don't only find your own strength, you get to know the strength of the people around you, people who on day one are just strangers and by day eight are family. There is a quote by Abbe Pierre that says, “Friendship is what comes into the heart of those who do beautiful and difficult things together.” I have learned this first hand. When people suffer together they lean on each other and depend on each other’s strength. The nine charities that we support depend on our strength each year, just as we depend on each other’s.

After walking Road for Hope you come back to campus and you know so much more. You know your strength, the location of your mind, you know more faces on campus and what they are really going through. You know your community and what it needs from you. For me, Road for Hope lightens my heart and soul and awakens me to the purpose behind why I do what I do.

Over the course of 130 miles, I realize why I signed up to do it in the first place. It’s not just the physical challenge; it’s about people having their own challenges who will benefit from my eight days of doing that seemingly simple task – putting one foot in front of the other. Walking reminds me how lucky I am to be alive and that I often do not know where I'm going or how long the journey will be but I do know that I have friends, family, and God that I can always lean on.

Road for Hope reminds me that each and every day of my life I am always walking the road and that I should never be too caught up in my own walk that I forget there are people beside me who may need or can be a hand to hold. So, after four months, I’ve finally figured out that I walk Road for Hope so my mind can be opened to why we need to walk in the first place.

Why I Walk: Madison Vigneault '18

It was the third day, six miles in, two water breaks passed, and three miles until lunch. After lunch, we’d have 11 miles until our longest day of 19 miles was behind us. I was on my first RFH, and with my sports watch flashing the time on its digital display, I could tell you not only what time it was, but how long we’d been walking for since our last break, how many miles left in the day, or even in our 130 mile journey. Sometimes in my head I’d calculate our percent complete. If I’d had an accurate pedometer, I’d probably even try our average miles per hour.

IMG_6707With my nerves taking over and the uncertainty of whether I’d be able to complete this long journey, I’d hide in the numbers to keep my mind busy and put the anxiety and pain at bay. But then day 4 came. And day 5. And 6 and 7. And then before I knew it, it was day 8 and I couldn’t remember what mile we were on or when our last break was. I wasn’t even wearing my watch anymore. It was safely tucked away in the pack that had once been cumbersome and foreign, but now felt like a familiar extension to my body, as normal and essential as my left arm.

As we walked towards Rimmon Heights neighborhood we could start to see our home up on the hilltop. Our final destination. But as happy as I was to know we were almost at that 100% mark I’d spent the first few days trying to calculate, the numbers were now inconsequential. Because now, I found myself in deep conversation with my walking buddy and didn’t notice the pain of each weighted step, but only the passion in her voice as she described to me how she decided on her major at Saint A’s.

At some point along the way, the conversations on the road began to carry my tired, heavy feet and was the fuel I needed to put one foot in front of the other. When I finally discovered this, I was able to exit the confines of my over analytical mind and dive into interesting, thoughtful and meaningful conversations with my peers. United by our goal to raise funds and awareness for nine great charities, and having a mutual understanding of the pains of the road created a sense of solidarity and invited honest and vulnerable conversations. Allowing myself to be present with them and take each stride one at a time, the walk became less about a mission to walk 130 miles, and more about a pilgrimage shared with friends for a worthy cause. Instead of focusing on the physical journey itself, I began to let myself experience it alongside my fellow walkers. It truly became “an outward journey with an inward destination.”

While I prepare to embark on my third Road for Hope, the winding roads from Lewiston to Manchester are as familiar as they’ve ever been. And while it’s a great route to walk, it’s the magical spaces of these conversations that I can’t wait to return to. It is in these conversations that I have gained so much respect for my fellow walkers, perspective on our journey, and thoughts on my faith. Terri Guillemets once said “You need special shoes for hiking, and a bit of a special soul as well.” I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to experience two amazing Road for Hopes and as I prepare for this final walk, I can’t help but think about all the special souls I’ll encounter. I am excited to lace up my shoes, put on my pack, and walk alongside my classmates for one final pilgrimage. And this time, I’m not packing my watch.

Why I Walk: Cori Swanhart '19

August 18, 2016.   Myself and 40 peers sat on the cold floor of the Lower Abbey Church as we prepared to embark on our Road for Hope journey together.  We were asked to explore the question I am excited to write about.  Why do you choose to walk Road for Hope?  The student leaders asked us to write why or who we were walking for on a popsicle stick.  People jotted down answers rather quickly as I sat there clueless about what my answer was. I tried to “dig deep” and come up with some intricate, powerful answer, but was unsure what I’d gotten myself into. 

cori faith rfhAs the days and miles passed, accompanied by many laughs and tears along the way, I still struggled to find an answer to what seemed to be a simple question.  Why do you walk Road for Hope? I knew I was walking for the 8 local charities, the phenomenal work they do, and the vulnerable people they help. I knew I was walking to raise awareness about the importance of paying it forward.  But, I also knew there was more to it than that.  It wasn’t until I crossed Saint Anselm Drive and returned home to the Hilltop that I realized I was walking to become a better version of myself. 

I like to think the majority of human beings strive to help create a kinder, more peaceful world.  I like to think I am one of those people.  This at times is a challenge.  Road for Hope has taught me that in order to create a kinder world, I have to create a kinder world inside myself first. I must strive to become a better version of myself.  The growth Road for Hope gifted me has allowed me to offer a fiercer compassion to others.  My first 130-mile journey was extraordinary.  I know there is still so much more to give, and more to gain, from this program.  I cannot wait to begin my next 130-mile adventure!

Why I Walk: Ashley Cryer '19

Road for Hope is unique in the sense that it invites you to set aside your daily routine and embrace the simplicity of putting two feet in front of the other. This will be my second year walking and I am smiling ear to ear just thinking about it. From the outside looking in, if someone is crazy enough to walk 130 miles more than once it must be special. And it is. Road for Hope highlights the importance of communication, it encourages you to be selfless, and it emphasizes the power a group of passionate individuals who want to make a difference can have.

Ashley CryerGhandi was right, the best way to find yourself is through the service of others. I walk for the 9 charities who need our advocacy and support. As much as the charities may need us, I want them to know how much I need them. For each charity I walked for, I gained something valuable.

Thank you Birthline/Catholic Charities. You taught me how rewarding stepping out of my comfort zone is. I had amazing conversations with people on the road who I had never even met before. I gained new perspectives and I was reassured that Road for Hope was a place where I could speak without judgement.

Thank you Community Concepts. My blisters would come despite how hard I tried to prevent them. Rather than wasting energy to try and control the uncontrollable, you taught me to focus my energy on the positive things around me, external rather than internal, and for that I thank you.

Thank you Good Shepard Food Bank. Food is food no matter where it is consumed. Dirt parking lots work just as well as closed in facilities. I am thankful for the food on my plate, for it is a right, not a privilege.

Thank you York County Shelter Program. Being the Mainer that I am, walking so close to home made me appreciate all my life has given me. On Road for Hope, I was in my most raw state. I want to thank you because you helped me to realize a person is not a person for the things they have, but rather for the things they are and what they do.

Thank you St. Charles Children’s Home. The weight of the pack on my back caught up with me the day I walked for you. I started questioning the items I packed and if I could have left them at home because it was weighing me down. Life can have this same effect, and I realized that there are some things I must take off my shoulders and put away.

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Thank you Rochester Recreation Arena and Youth Services. I have gained a deeper appreciation for the little things: a yummy snack, a cool breeze, or the smell of trees. Stretching is good for the soul and a good conversation has the power to detract from the pain you feel.

Thank you Candia Moore School Drug and Awareness Program. I came to a realization on the day that I walked for you. Saint Anselm College was going to be my home for the next 3 years because the people who go here are special, they are kind, and they lift me up and encourage me to be the best version of myself.

Thank you Kid’s Café. A 30-minute drive makes for a very long walk. At this point in the week we were so close to finishing, but still so far. But distance means so little; it’s everything in between. As much as I wished at this point to be able to lay in my bed and never walk again, I am lucky enough to have two feet that carry me.

Thank you UpReach Therapeutic Riding Center. Walking 130 miles from Lewiston to Manchester is very different from walking to the fridge from bed. Home gained a new meaning when I stepped foot onto campus that final day in August. My heart was full not because I walked 130 miles, but because we did.

I truly look forward to discovering what gifts these 9 charities have in store for me when I walk again this year. Road for Hope, I love you.

Why I Walk: Emily Pierce '19

Whenever someone mentions the words “Road For Hope,” a quote from Dr. Seuss resounds in the back of my mind. The quote states, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” Although it is impossible to quite comprehend the magnitude of the Road For Hope experience while walking your 100th mile in the hot August sun, it is an experience that never leaves you. You can, however, understand one thing for certain: that this walk and its mission are a part of something much larger than yourself.

Emily Pierce '19

I walk on the margins of the road for those in the margins of our society. Those whose own sense of hope is quite literally dependent on the road we walk because the nine charities we support are invaluable resources to them.

I walk for the sense of awe that I can participate in service for the nine charities I have never been to, but still know they are an essential part in the life of someone I will never meet. In this sense, Road For Hope embodies the meaning of service in its purest form. Service at its core is doing good for others and expecting nothing in return. It is so easy to let the enticement of praise dictate our desire to serve, but on Road For Hope there is simply no way for pride to seep into our intentions (especially when no one has showered for days on end).

I walk because between the blisters and sweat, the laughter and the tears, the formation of friendships and memories, there is a transformation that occurs. Suddenly, you realize that values like community, optimism and service to others will outlast even the peskiest of blisters.

I walk because sometimes you may not know where the road might lead quite yet, but you can feel that you need to be on it.