Dennis's Lambeau Journey
What would inspire a man to leave his home in southern WI on a cold day in February and start walking all the way to Lambeau Field in Green Bay? And let’s say that this man had lost his leg in a car accident and now uses a wheelchair, what could possible motivate him to roll over 170 miles in the middle of winter in Wisconsin?
When I ask this question to Dennis, his answer was “I’ve always been like this” but I suspect there is something more.
Just by happenstance I saw a post on Facebook about Dennis’s journey and the moment I read his story I knew he was my February Keeping the Faith person! I tracked him down and drove to see him in Watertown on February 14, Valentine’s Day. We met at the hospital. He had woke up that morning and decided to take the day off from “walking” and instead go to the local hospital and nursing home to hand out flowers and candy to strangers, just to brighten their day.
We sat and talked for about an hour and he shared with me parts of his story. A few years back he was in a serious car accident and lost his leg. He’s had numerous surgeries since and during one of those surgeries he woke to the news that his dad had died, he had Alzheimer’s disease. Soon after that his mother became ill with stage 4 cancer. He took her into his home and cared for her until she passed. A little while after his mother passed his cousin, a police officer, died in the line of duty. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself he decided to do a fundraiser to raise money for charities that affected the people he loved and lost, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Law Enforcement and the March of Dimes. Why so many? How he could he pick just one, each one has special meaning to him so he puts them all out there and asks people to donate to whichever one they feel inclined to give money to.
But it’s not really about the money for him, there is more to it than that. After our brief meeting I got the impression that this journey has more to do with his need to show people the good in this world. When he tells his story it’s mostly about the people he has met along the way. It’s about the homeless guy who he gave his hat and gloves to, the abused women they meet at a hotel and took under their wings for a short time, the young African American man who pulled over just to help Dennis up some steps, the people who offer to pay for his room or meal, the store owner who stopped him on the road to give him new shoes, the people who pull over on the highway just to be sure he is ok. It’s about the smiles he gets when he hands out candy on Valentine’s Day, the young children at the school who come out to cheer him on and the police officers who take time out of their day to send an encouraging message.
His love of life, kindness and playfulness is contagious and after spending just an hour with him I felt inspired to think about what I could do to help someone else, how I could be less judgmental, how I could do more random acts of kindness. He inspired me not because of what he has been through but because he is not letting that stop him from doing what brings him joy and making a difference in the world.
This is a man who loves the journey. He genuinely loves the people he meets along the way, he loves to see the kindness of strangers and he loves to share that kindness with others. I believe this is what fuels his spirit and compels him to continue. But I also think he does it to motivate others, to fill our heart and to inspire us to be better and do more to help those who need it.
If you are driving along and happen to see this man rolling down the road, pull over and say hi. I guarantee you wont regret it and you just might leave the encounter feeling a little better about the world.
You can also find a link to his charities there.