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The Pilgrimage: A Short Story of a Long 200 mile Journey // June 15

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Dave McDermand/The Eagle

I was not too far over the Brazos County line when a Sheriff’s Deputy rolled up.  Jumping out of the car, the Deputy started a line of call and response with me, “Where are you going?”  “To Austin”  “Walking?”  “Yes, I am walking from Livingston to Austin in protest of the death penalty.”  “Ok…”  Then another officer pulled up and jumped out of the car.  “Can we take a look at your license?  We just want to make sure that dispatch has your name and knows that you are going to be walking.”  “Sure.”  The officer proceeded to check for prior arrests and warrants.  I was thoroughly investigated for walking down the road.  The entire situation made me think about the numerous persons who are put through a similar situation without the benefit of being able to speak English…often for the same reason that I was…they were walking.

 

I got my sweat on after the incident until I was stopped by a photographer/videographer for the local newspaper to do some interviews and pose for some pictures.  When you can barely walk, you feel weird participating in such rituals…but you do it in order to get the message out.  I kept on moving after the media interaction was over.  I felt like I walked all day needing to take a shit.  There are very few bathrooms on the way in to Bryan or College Station.  Then I saw it…the closest thing to paradise I had seen in some time…a hole in the wall honky tonk called “The Beer Joint.”

 

Pushing the doors open with force, I walked in and spoke past the five guys sitting on bar stools to the woman working behind the counter.  “Can I please use your restroom?”  “Of course.”  Before I could get to the restroom though, a man at the bar turned to ask, “What in the hell are you doing?”  I guess they had never had someone come in with clergy vestments on before.  “I am walking from Livingston to Austin in protest of the death penalty.”  “Why in the hell would you do that?”  “Because I am a Christian.”  “That sounds pretty silly to me.”  “I promise I will come back out and tell you why it is not silly after I get done using the bathroom.”  “Go right ahead.  I ain’t trying to hold you up.”  I took one of the most impactful and freeing shits of my life before I came back out to have a long conversation about the death penalty and faith with the guys at the bar and the woman working behind the counter.  Before I left, most of the folks present told me they admired what I was doing whether they agreed with me or not.  I left and started walking once more.

 

Sweating profusely and in a good deal of pain, I made it until about four miles from the Brazos County Courthouse.  I called the reporter who was to interview that evening over dinner and asked her to come pick me up.  I was exhausted.  The reporter drove me by the Brazos County Courthouse where I prayed for District Attorney Jarvis Parsons to stop pursuing death sentences.  I asked that Jesus would manifest in the life of the deeply religious man in a way that would not let him participate in the killing of anyone else.  I got back in the car.  Upon arriving at a real deal Mexican restaurant, I waxed poetic the rest of the night with the reporter about life, faith and the death penalty.

 

When I laid my head down, I was comforted to know that the next day I would not be walking alone.

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