Walking to listen


Andrew Forsthoefel. Photo by Therese Jornlin, taken from transom.org

I don’t know how often you take the time to listen to an audio documentary – but let me give you a really strong recommendation of a hidden gem:

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found myself rather randomly listening to the story of Andrew Forsthoefel, who at the age of 23 decided to walk out of his back door on the East Coast of America… and keep walking. For the next 11 months, he walked the 4,000-mile journey to the opposite coast, wearing a sign that read ‘walking to listen.’ He decided to interview people along the way, asking them one simple question:

‘What would you say to your 23-year-old self?’

The responses he received were a mix of profound, hilarious and baffling. And while he had to edit 85 hours of recordings down to make just a one-hour documentary, the result is a really fine piece of work, which gives a really compelling window into the mind of the American man and woman in the street.

The bit which absolutely chilled my spine was his interview with Emma Lou Dailey, an elderly black woman from Beatrice, Alabama who died before the documentary was completed. Remembering the deep prejudices and hardships suffered as a black woman in the American south, hers is an extraordinary voice of faith, forgiveness and hope. Whatever your faith persuasion, there’s no disputing that what she says about those who oppressed her is nothing short of remarkable.

Anyway, take a tip from me – listen to it – ‘Walking across America’ really is a wonderful thing.

You can listen to the documentary by clicking here.

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