We feel blessed in so many ways. We are blessed to be surrounded by good friends on this journey. We are blessed with wonderful weather. We are blessed to be able to walk through such beautiful countryside. We are blessed to live in a time when the death penalty may come to an end. We are blessed to have friends and family at home who are praying for us and supporting us.
With sadness, we left behind our new friends at Cedar Cross; we hope to return to spend more time there, perhaps with the energy to walk some of the four miles of trails they have there, or to help with some of the work around the retreat center.
Today's journey took us from Middleburg, just west of Henderson, through Norlina, then through Warrenton and ending east of Warrenton. We followed Highway 158, which is so much nicer to walk on than US 1. It's less busy and more scenic, although the shoulders are a bit narrower. The best part, however, is that we are closer to the people. We stopped by a volunteer fire department and briefly spoke to two men out front who were very interested in our walk and expressed great support. Two women were running a fruit and vegetable stand east of Henderson. They were delighted to hear our story and enthusiastically wished us well, offering to pray for us. Just west of Norlina, a gentleman pulled up alongside us and said he had seen us the day before while on his way to visit the hospital in Raleigh. We also said he would be praying for us. On the way out of Warrenton, someone pulled alongside and asked if we were the same walkers who were featured in the Henderson Daily Dispatch. He then offered us his copy of the paper to take with us.
The most interesting encounter of the day occurred while we were on a water break near an intersection three miles outside of Henderson. He pulled up in a truck, and asked what we were doing; we said we were walking. He ask "About the death penalty?" and we said yes. He said an expletive, then spoke to the two others in his truck. He then said that in North Carolina, one can be convicted if the jury is convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt", but for a death sentence, there should be "no doubt". (Although we would prefer there not be a death sentence, we would certainly agree that "no doubt" would be preferable to "reasonable doubt", but what constitutes "no doubt", and who decides?) But he seemed to want to be on his way and simply said that we could agree to disagree. He drove by a few minutes later, before we had a chance to start walking again, and I guess he could not resist stopping. The first words out of his mouth: "Do you need any water?". We asked him to tell us his story, and he did. He turned off the engine of his truck. We was a retired corrections officer and had seen horrible violence in that role. We listened, without interrupting, but asked him more questions. He went on at length, and perhaps too graphically for the younger children in our group, but it seemed that he needed to tell us his story. When he finished, he offered a banana he had, which Patrick and Scott accepted with thanks, and we all left on friendly terms, "agreeing to disagree"
We ended up in separate houses for the night. Sr. Margaret at St. Jospeph's in Warrenton arranged for two parishioner couples to take some of us. We stayed in lovely homes on Lake Gaston, where we had wonderful showers, hot meals, good conversation, and took sunset boat rides in the clear air. Sr. Margarate took Patrick and his kids. At the house where Dave, Debbie and Ellen stayed, their hosts Ann and Don also invited friends Jim and Heidi from Littleton for dinner. After introductions, Heidi remarked to us, "Ann wouldn't tell you this, but we didn't know what to expect from you. But you're so normal!" We got a kick out of that. Everyone was very supportive, and Ann offered her home in Littleton as a rest stop on our way through town (we told her how difficult it had been to find a bathroom in Henderson).
Today ended as a great day of meeting people on our journey. We hope to meet more tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow.
Leaving Middleburg, known for the Middleburg Steak House.
Crossroads in Norlina. Yikes! We had to turn south for a few miles to get to Warrenton. Feels like we're walking backwards.
Warren County Courthouse. We had a nice lunch there, and a small vigil on the courthouse square.