Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One man's steps make a difference

When "Jukie" Daly walked up the hill in Thunder Bay and stood at the base of the statue of Terry Fox, he began to cry. Terry Fox is his idol. The man who made a difference in his life and captured his imagination when he was a young teen. And there he was, standing at his feet.

He'd been walking for a couple of weeks by the time his feet stopped at the bottom of Terry's statue. He'd been taking one measured footstep after the other leading him forward towards his goal of walking from Toronto to Golden, B.C. He figured it would take him another eight weeks. It did.

"I just asked God why I was here. He said, to get walking. So I did." Jukie told me when I sat and chatted with him yesterday afternoon and asked him what inspired him to take such a journey. He'd made it to Golden, B.C. On Foot. He's now staying at the Drop-In, resting-up before flying back to Toronto on Friday.

He doesn't have an entourage. He doesn't have a coterie of handlers following along in his footsteps, or driving beside him. Jukie walks alone. "But I'm not alone," he says when I ask him if he was ever scared on his journey. "God walks every step with me."

As he travelled across Canada, Jukie stayed in shelters along the way, unless the town in which he stopped for the night didn't have a shelter -- then he found a hotel to put him up. "The people were nice where ever I went," he said. "God kept providing me everything and every one I needed on my path."

A quiet man. A solid faith. Jukie is 30. His mother and step-father own a bible camp in Durham, Ontario. He grew up reading the Bible. Loving the stories of Jesus. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to be like "The Legend" as he calls his hero, Terry Fox.

He walked from Toronto to St. Johns, Newfoundland last year to raise funds for a women's shelter. This year, the Mission for whom he works thought a longer journey was in order. Jukie agreed and started walking.

His mahogany skin shines, his dark eyes glow with enthusiasm. His responses to my questions are measured, slow, easy. "I have many gifts," he says. "I didn't want to have to tell God I'd wasted his gifts when I met him at the end of the road. He gave me a voice to speak and feet to walk. Best I use them wisely."

Jukie doesn't think what he's done is all that spectacular. I disagreed. "Many of us think of doing something like you've done Jukie. Few of us seldom put our thoughts into action. You are an inspiration."

Yesterday, I walked up to a humble man sitting at a table on the second floor of the drop-in and asked a simple question. One of the staff had told me about him, suggested I might want to talk with him and write an article for our newsletter. "Will you tell me your story?" I asked him. His response was a simple, "Yes. That's why I'm here. To share my story and to share my love of God."

My response was more measured. I was concerned. I didn't want to hear a sermon. I wanted to know about his journey. My fear was of my own making.

Jukie never preached. He sat and quietly told me about seeing a fox, a bear, a moose on his journey. About the semi-trailers roaring past, the cars honking their horns when they saw his Canadian flag and the plain sign he carried that explained his journey. "Jukie's cross-Canada walk to support women's shelters". His eyes lit up when he told me about seeing the splendour of this country surrounding him and about being committed to putting one foot in front of the other, one after the other, so that he could reach his goal, step by step.

I can learn a lot from Jukie. We all can.

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