B y Jaime Thomas
Tom Francine went for a walk in Portland, Maine, three weeks ago, and he hasn’t stopped since.
He’s not trying to raise money, he’s not trying to cure a disease and he’s not trying to accomplish a unique physical feat. His aim is something less tangible—he wants to prove that people are good.
The 26-year-old New Jersey native is walking across America. He’s pounding the pavement, pushing all of his belongings in a sporty stroller in front of him from the east coast to San Diego, Calif. His exact route is unknown, and frankly, is not a huge concern for him.
What he does care about is changing the world and people’s perception of it.
“Some people try to raise money, which is good, but I think it’s much more important to help people directly,” Francine said Wednesday, as he strolled through Middle Granville.
On his website he describes the purpose of his walk as “to shed light on the good of humanity, and to inspire others to work with this faith and change the world.”
“I love traveling and meeting people. It’s very important to take small risks for your own life and also to do things for other people,” he said.
Coming from the day’s start in Fair Haven, Francine was en route to Hartford—but not before stopping at Chapman’s store on the recommendation of a Vermonter he met along the way.
Francine, who speaks quietly and humbly, said he dreamed up his journey after years of traveling and hitchhiking 26,000 national and international miles.
“Through that I realized the world was a lot safer than I realize. I met good people everywhere,” he said. “Violent crime rates are at or near all-time lows, and people are surprised by that.” He wants to change this pessimistic view and spread the idea of “go greater good.”
This slogan covers a business card he hands out to everyone he meets; on the back he asks the reader to “change the world for three people. Find a way to show genuine compassion for: yourself, someone you know and a stranger,” with a box to check off next to each option.
In keeping with that theme, Francine “tries to do good things” with a weekly challenge.
In his first week, for example, he handed out homemade bouquets to random strangers, and last week he sent hand-written letters to friends and family.
Though one would expect a person with some 3,000-odd miles to go to be in a hurry, Francine was more than happy to stop for a conversation. In fact, that’s what he hopes for.
Perhaps it’s his friendly countenance or youth, but people in the communities Francine passes through are eager to meet him and help him on his way.
“No one has given me a hard time,” he said. While chatting in Granville Wednesday, a Vermont resident, who said a friend in Orwell had met him the day before, tracked him down to deliver a fast-food meal. It was his second free meal of the day, and he would enjoy two more before bed.
Aside from giving him food, people chat with Francine to see what he’s up to, give him money and offer him directions; he tries to take a picture of everyone he meets.
Averaging about 20 miles per day, Francine marches on through rain, shine and stifling heat. He takes advantage of showers when people offer to host him; the rest of the time he camps here and there.
He keeps such necessities as peanut butter, tuna and granola on hand and gratefully accepts anything else that comes his way.
On Wednesday, Francine was invited to sleep in a camper at a Sentinel reporter’s house in Hartford, after he was informed that the town consisted of one stoplight and a gas station. He made his way up Rowe Hill Road and enjoyed his first shower in five days—to his own and his hosts’ delight.
He was especially appreciative for computer and Internet access, which he used to update the photo-filled blog he keeps.
After a hearty breakfast of cereal with almond milk, peanut butter and a banana, he set off early Thursday morning aiming to take Route 40 through Argyle to Greenwich.
On the weekend, he was going to take a break and ride with his family to Lake Placid to watch his father compete in an Ironman. This week he would continue walking west.
To track Francine’s progress or find out more about him, visit gogreatergood.com.