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  • Ken Ilgunas

A letter to a church in Atkinson, Nebraska

Dear Faith Wesleyan Church,

Today is the 65th day of my journey. I am walking cross-country from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. For the first part of my trip, when I’d have to camp in a town, I would normally find some shadowy spot to set up my tent–some place where I wouldn’t be seen and where I wouldn’t bother anyone.

I’ve learned, though, that traveling in this manner–solitarily, secretively, pridefully–is not the best way to travel.

There are many qualities that make a good traveler. Among them you could list strong legs, a sense of direction, and knowledge of other languages. But perhaps the most important is knowing how to take a favor.

In taking a favor, not only will I be more comfortable, less hungry, and better rested, but I will allow a bond to form between the giver and the taker of the favor. It provides me the chance me to engage with people I normally wouldn’t engage with. I give them my story, they give me theirs, and we all feel richer in the end. I have allowed myself to receive many favors in Atkinson, and not only have I been rewarded with food, warmth, and this building in which I will comfortably rest tonight, but I will leave town with a store of stories, and a renewed faith in the goodness of people.

I should admit that I’m not a religious person. Far from it. If I have a religion, it’s the belief that we ought to care for our fellow man and for Mother Nature. While I feel slightly guilty taking a favor from this church and you kind practitioners, I gather that our similarities are greater than our differences, and that maybe I shouldn’t feel like such an outsider in here. And while I doubt that many of you are planning on going on a long walk across the country, perhaps you’ll still be moved to know that, if you did go on such a walk, you’d find open homes and open hearts all along the way.

Happy trails,



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