A stranger from The East
The sun is setting as a bearded man arrives in Alexandria. He is on foot; he has no currency; he has no place to lay his weary head for the night. He comes from The East, well, Joliette, Québec. The soft-spoken, affable traveller is looking for a stable. Honest.
But he does not come bearing gifts. In fact, he says he has no worldly goods whatsoever.
His name is Jerome, he says. He offers no family name. No photos, please. “I want to arrive as a stranger.” What is he running, or walking, from? Or is he walking towards something? His itinerary is vague. His next destination may be Avonmore, but that all depends on how much ground he can cover the following day.
His immediate goal is finding shelter for the night. Jerome has stopped over at the library, where he gets a coffee, warmth and Internet access.
“I like sleeping in abandoned barns.” Guided by the stars, carrying his packsack, he will seek out overnight accommodation.
When he is reminded that the thermometer is to dip below minus-10 this night, Jerome concedes that a stable may be a little overly rustic for the conditions. Perhaps he will camp out on a porch at a church. Jerome is appreciative of the warm welcome he has received in town. One woman has given him hamburgers; locals are intrigued by his story. What is his story? Jerome has been on the road for two years. His mission is to attempt to get by on the charity of strangers.
For a person who has no place to call home, Jerome is perfectlyl kempt. He looks like your average guy.
So far, he has been to the Maritimes, walking through Cape Breton, visiting Fredericton.
He is thinking of heading towards Georgian Bay or Niagara Falls before the weather here gets too brutal. “People are ready to help out a stranger,” he says. Isn’t that refreshing? Jerome has met all types in his travels. In one unfriendly place, he was chased away by security guards when he tried to sleep in a greenhouse near a hospital. Security guards can get nervous about that kind of situation. Due diligence must be exercised when public facilities, and potential exposure to liability, are concerned.
But Jerome believes the guards’ reaction reflects a dark side of human nature. “People are afraid of being punished for doing the right thing.”
Yes, well, out of the blue a man appears and wants to crash in your greenhouse or your barn. What is your immediate reaction? The first instinct would be to question this guy’s motives. What is his angle? You might look around, seeking out hidden recording devices to ensure that this is not some sort of prank that will end up on the news or, even worse, social media.
What if this is some type of social experiment? Jerome may be working on a book or a Netflix series exposing the real nature of those proverbial generous, arms-open-wide inviting rural residents.
Or you could just accept Jerome as he is, without doubting the true reasons for his trek.
Perhaps his only goal is to get people to think of moral imperatives, doing the right thing, and offering succor to strangers who come from The East on a cold winter’s night.
Joyeux Noël, Jerome, wherever you are. --