Feb 7, 2010

At about 45th and Lincoln a woman put out her thumb. She had white hair, and what first came to mind, a press pass hanging from her neck. She wore glasses, jeans and black leather coat. I stopped.

It turned out to be Jeana Moore: 57, a life long advocate of various causes, and now walking across the country to promote a national bone marrow registry. Her grand daughter suffers from leukemia although it's in remission.

Jeana started out from Seattle on October 19th. She expects to be in Santa Monica on April 14th and in Washington, DC a year later. When I found her she was one day ahead of schedule. She carries a 35-pound pack, a Horizon cell phone and almost no cash. She survives on the generosity of strangers, as well as churches and like-minded organizations.

In Northern California, she’s walking close to 101. For the next couple of days you might be able to catch site of her on El Camino Real as she makes her way to San Jose.

She’s allowed herself time to help people in places along the way to set up centers where you can, with a mere swab, be included in the data base for bone marrow matches. She explained that the process of donating marrow is not so terrifying as it once was. Now, in the great majority of cases you take shots for five days, to spur the body to make more marrow, which gets in the blood and then you simply give plasma and you’re done. Or else, in a small percentage of cases, you may have a brief surgery, with anesthesia, that takes marrow from a rich source in your hip.

She was trying to get to a BART station to visit a relative in the East Bay. I took her downtown and on the way she talked about her adventure. In fact, it’s been a life of these kinds of adventures, including 7 years working on behalf of a Palestinian reconciliation project in Israel and Jordan.

But what about the walking, aren’t you a little afraid, I asked. She said she was a little afraid from time to time but in fact she had never had a bad experience and everyone she came in contact with was on his or her best behavior.

Have you ever had any bad experience, I asked.

She had. Without missing a beat she said she'd had any number of bad experiences, all with men and beginning with her father. She was quick to add that she held no grudge and that this was simply what people do when they’re frustrated in some way.

But she'd never had a problem with a stranger, only with people she had become, as she put it, intimate with. Which I took to mean not necessarily in a sexual way.

“I hope to find someone again in my life that I can be intimate with,” she said. My sense was that she meant intimate with a man, but perhaps not. She went on to say that she took heart and solace from various faiths, including Christianity, Buddhism and Sufism.

I noticed that she held a proud look on her face. Remembering it now it gave you the sense of having always faced the wind. I don't know how else to say it.

We were almost to the BART station at UN Plaza. I asked once more about how it was that she seemed to feel more comfortable with strangers.

“I get along better with strangers,” she said. “Whenever you become intimate with someone inevitably you reveal yourself and then you get hurt. It can’t be helped. We all do it. I do it. You do it. That’s not to say you should retreat. As I said one day I hope to have that kind of relationship again.”

She smiled, got out of the car and disappeared.

She never asked for any money and I forgot to offer any. You can follow her journey at www.stepstomarrow.com.


Anjuli said...

How wonderful that you were able to spend some time with her- what an awesome woman. It is so true about being vulnerable- my husband was just talking about that the other day- he said we have to love- even if it means getting hurt- we love- get hurt- and love again- that is life. If we close ourselves off, we no longer really live- we simply survive.

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