This week we are pleased to introduce a Southern Gables writer who is traveling on a wide-ranging adventure. Brooklynn Rich is “on the road,” experiencing these United States and meeting wonderful people while attending college classes, holding down a journalism responsibility, and pursuing a faith avocation. We are hoping she will continue to let us in on her travels across this great country we share. 

By Brooklynn Rich

Growing up in Southern Gables, small acts of kindness surrounded me. Whether it was a graduation party saved by a neighbor who spent her morning picking up blown-away invitations or a smile and a wave from a passing dog-walker, these moments created the feeling of home in my neighborhood. Adjusting to being alone on the road has been a sharp learning process. One of the things I am most grateful for is the continuous interactions that remind me of the kindness of home. Often these conversations are so sporadic that I don’t catch a name, but their welcoming presence remains in my memories.

The Penny Man, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Living in a van in Florida has its ups and downs. Long days at the beach swimming in the water make up for the particularly hot days spent searching for an air-conditioned place to catch up on homework. On one of these sweltering afternoons, I stopped at a gas station to momentarily ease my overheating body with a cold soda. As I stood in line waiting to check out, the older man in front of me reached down, almost falling over, to grab a penny he had spotted near the register. Turning around, he asked, “Do you want a lucky penny?” Smiling, I accepted the penny and reminisced on the family tradition I have attached to pennies. Pennies on the ground represent my Nana thinking of you, reminding you she is watching out for you and ensuring it will all be okay. What a lucky time to have needed a cold soda.

Liz and Konrad, Dallas, Texas

My college dorm room, classroom, dining hall, and transportation system.

Texas greeted me with an ice storm that reached the headlines in the national news. One thing about driving in my van is that I’m not only driving my brand-new car but also my brand-new home. So when the weather gets bad, I’m stuck wherever I am to fend for myself. Unfortunately, I also run off solar, so I’m in quite a pickle when I’m stuck for multiple days with no sun. Lucky for me, I met just the right family in Dallas who took me in and gave me a home away from home for the week. For four days, I spent my mornings, afternoons, and nights inside the Eysink home, drinking hot coffee, eating soup, petting three dogs and three cats, and hearing stories about my host family’s lives. The generosity of the Eysink family to welcome a stranger amidst a storm is quite an example of sacrificial love. Having nothing to offer, I was the lucky stranger crashing a sweet family’s home.

60th Birthday Girl, New Orleans, Louisiana

My first Mardi Gras was spent on the streets with my new friend, Karen, celebrating the first day of the parades and her 60th birthday. Being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras might have been one of my more dangerous adventures, but it has also become one of my favorite memories from the road. That night standing on the street alone amidst a bunch of really under-the-influence people, Karen took no time to find a spot for me in the crowd’s front row and begin to get to know me. Karen is a New Orleans native with three kids and a few grandkids. She constantly reminded me of how proud she was that I was traveling alone and how worried she would continue to be when I picked up and left again. I spent a safe night next to my new friend, gathering way too many beaded necklaces, magnets, pins, coins, and stuffed animals. I’m not sure I’ll ever make it back to see Karen, but I can be sure I’m in her prayers, just like I’m in the prayers of so many of my sweet neighbors back home. Until I return, I’m grateful for all the people who remind me of the friendly streets of Southern Gables.

Brooklynn Rich is pursuing a degree in journalism through Liberty University. By taking her classes online, she plans to spend her college years traveling across the country in her self-converted Ram ProMaster van. In addition to her classes, she works as a journalist for The Borgen Project, a nonprofit that fights against extreme poverty. Brooklynn tells us, “I enjoy learning more about how I can best support those in greatest need. I also spend time visiting churches across the country, exploring what the body of Christ looks like in different places in the US.” 


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