For many Americans, 2020 was a year of canceled plans and changed destinations. For James Thompson, of Salt Lake City, it was the year he and a friend decided to hit the open road on foot.
“It was definitely scary,” said Thompson. “After I told (my friend) I would do it, I was like what did I just commit myself to?”
The plan was to walk from San Francisco, California to Virginia Beach, Virginia, starting on June 24, 2020.
“This walk was in response to all the chaos that was going on in the country in the beginning of the summer with the riots,” he explained.
The two men wanted to search for the good happening in our country during a time plagued with uncertainty and fear.
“We saw the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. “Luckily, it was mostly the good.”
In Colorado, wildfires knocked them 150 miles of course.
“We were wondering if this was really worth it,” he said. “We wondered if this was making a difference.”
However, in all those miles, Thompson said it was the moments that mattered. Like the time a total stranger took them in.
“This guy was amazing,” he said. “The man had a bed set up for us. Every day, he would do our laundry, fold our laundry and make our bed.”
There were dozens of other instances where true kindness was found on the shoulder of a highway.
“We saw people who would pull over on the side of the road, give us food, give us water and even money.”
Perhaps the biggest twist was when the duo arrived in Washington D.C on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.
“We didn’t plan to be in D.C. at that time,” he explained. “We had no idea this rally was going to happen.”
Thompson said they decided to attend the rally at the Capitol.
“The entire time it was peaceful,” he said. “There was prayer and there was singing.”
However, he said he could feel things changing in the crowd and tensions rising.
“I’m glad I acted on a feeling and impression that I had and that we left,” he said.
Thompson’s walk for peace ended up colliding with a sea of rioters.
“Yeah, it’s pretty ironic, because we get there and all of this happens,” he recalled.
He said it caused some stress getting out of the area, but they just kept walking.
“We do have some challenges that we do need to address in our country, but I’m optimistic that the country will come together, and we’ll figure it out,” he said.
Like on many long journeys where plans change and destinations are diverted, Thompson and his friend didn’t end up stopping in Virginia Beach.
“We’ve met some of the kindest people across the country in every state that just went out of their way to support us,” he said.
Instead, they ended their 3,000-mile journey in Salisbury, Maryland, also known as Kindness City, USA.
“The people were truly amazing,” he said.
Thompson now plans to write a book about his journey and all the people he met along the way.