PILGRIMAGE OF A PROMISE
How Far Would You Go To Keep Your Word..?
Rick Hagans' Walk Across America
Twenty-eight years ago Rick Hagans' Christmas was down in the dumps. He wasn't 'feeling down,' he was literally down in a dump. Rick and some friends had gone down to the impoverished border region along the Rio Grande to give out some Christmas gifts to the children there. On their last day in Mexico they had followed vultures to a garbage dump, to a sight that seemed to be more of Dante's Inferno than the world we live in.
There, in a smoldering pit of garbage, were people picking through the trash for a bit to sell or a bite to eat. Rick and his friends went down into the pit to meet the people laboring there amidst the smoke and smoulder. They found out that those working through the rubbish, actually lived right there in the
dump. To the eye it was hard to tell what was trash and what was humanity. But the heart always sees with more clarity than the eye, and Rick's heart was immediately drawn to the rubbish pickers he met there, especially the ragamuffin children smiling up at him through the smoke. A scene like that shakes you.
Rick's team gave out gifts to their new found friends. It was their last day in Mexico and all they had left to give to the people were a few pair of shoes, some toys for the children, and their hearts.
One little boy, no more than 5 or 6-years old cam up to Rick with a hand full of toys. He pulled on Rick's sleeve to get his attention and asked if he could swap his toys for a pair of shoes. The little fella stood barefoot and bleeding in a field of broken shards of glass and rusty strips of metal. But there were no shoes left to give him. So Rick remembers,
"I gave him the only thing I had left to give...I gave him my word that I'd come back, and I'd bring him some shoes."
This is where 'Rick's Walk' comes in. Back home in Alabama he asked a church where he was peaching if they would help him get shoes for that garbage dump colony he'd come across on the border. Their response, Rick remembers was less than enthusiastic. Then a strange thing happened according to Rick. He got this weird idea, which is nothing new if you know Rick Hagans, to walk across his home state of Alabama and try and raise shoes for each mile he would walk. He shared his idea instantaneously with the group where he was preaching. This time their response was much more enthusiastic.
While he had his crowd's attention Rick upped the ante for shoes by asking them if they would help him raise Ten-Pair Per Mile, if he would walk barefoot like his little
friend he'd found down in the dumps on the border. When the crowd cheered, 'Yes!' Rick's walk really began.
That first year (1992) Rick walked across Alabama, East to West, and he did it for the most part barefoot. He burned his feet up so bad on that hot Alabama asphalt he later had to start wearing shoes. Alabama is 340 miles across east to west. Rick's goal of raising ten-pair of shoes for each mile he walked was surpassed by fifty-thousand pair of shoes that first year. And yes, he did make it back to the dump, found his little friend, and put a new pair of shoes on his feet. Rick still has the excuse for shoes the little boy traded him for a new pair on his bookshelf at home.
Thanks to all those shoes people donated Rick's team was able to put shoes on everyone's feet there in that little dump. The were later able to buy another local dump in that city and build an orphanage there. (If you'd ever like to see it you can come down to Mexico with us. We'd love to have you.)
Since that first walk Rick has continued walking across a different state each year, with redoing Alabama north-to-south being the second annual walk. And sometimes he'll walk more than one state when they are small enough. To date he has walked across 39 states, covering over 14,400 miles, and raising over one million pair of shoes!
He walked across Nevada last year, his first one on a new knee. This year (2019) he'll be walking across Wisconsin. His goal is to keep walking and keep raising shoes. Our research seems to show that Rick would be the first person ever to walk across each of the 50 United States of America.
You can keep up with his journeys at by following us on social media. His walks usually take place in the fall and we do what we can to keep everyone up-to-date on where he is on his walks. He'd love to even have you join him for a few miles, a meal, or a service at your church or organization.
He would also appreciate your help with his ongoing effort at raising shoes for those who need them. You could do that by donating shoes, donating money and designating it to 'the walk', or by joining him either on the walk or down in Mexico to give the shoes out.