VISTA — Why would anyone elect to walk around the United States, leaving family and friends behind for over a year, braving all kinds of weather, shunning any mechanical means of transportation, and relying solely on private resources and a few donations to survive? We were soon to find out.
We had received notice that Robert Le Page would pass through Vista during his fourth walk around our country. Early in December, he walked up our driveway, pulling behind him a little red wagon filled with his modest possessions. Bob turned out to be one of those rare individuals instilled with a vision so clearly defined as to endow him with the magnetism of a prophet. We were prepared to offer him food and shelter. What we hadn't bargained for was to have our moral convictions tested and probed by this gentle, elfin man.
The universal message he delivers to all who will listen is simply this: It's time for radical social changes in our country (and by extension, on our planet), and what are we willing to do about it?
Although I claim to be aware of the threat of nuclear annihilation and the preponderance of social and political injustices, I had never been confronted with the question so directly. Indeed, what was I willing to do about it? His walk, "a prayer in preparation for change," as he sees it, is to make people aware of the means to institute these changes. They are outlined in Article V of our Constitution, which empowers Congress to call for a constitutional convention.
Many years of thoughtful consideration led to Bob's conclusion that this would be the most logical way to initiate change within the present political system. Bob, who hails from Wisconsin, spent three years in a Franciscan seminary before deciding that he was better-suited to a secular life. Although many have spurned his single-mindedness along the way, he feels the time is now ripe for his idea to take hold. A philosophical background greatly influenced his leanings. His deeply held beliefs in equality and fairness provide the framework for his political stance.
During his walk, Bob distributes to those who ask a copy of a platform advocating the dismantling of nuclear weaponry and a guarantee that everyone be provided with the basic necessities of life. But most of all, he stresses a return to personal and political integrity.
"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try to convince people one last time that changes are imperative within our system," he explained to a rapt audience of family and friends gathered around our kitchen table. His voice rarely rising above an audible whisper, he continued: "We must try our very best here and now to make government responsive to everyone's needs, and the constitutional convention gives us the means to do this."
This special provision written into the Constitution by our Founding Fathers specifically to keep government in check has rarely been used because of the massive bureaucratic and political ramifications. "We have the power to change things," said Bob, "but it'll take great courage to do it."
The more Bob talked, the more aware I became of my political and social apathy. Although his vision of a united planet is still too broad for me to grasp, I couldn't help but be inspired by the monumental task he had laid out for himself. What Bob accomplished for those who listened to him that rainy afternoon was to reinforce the fact that individual convictions are worth fighting for.
The next day, Bob went on his way. We felt a strange letdown as this extraordinary individual disappeared from sight down the road, sustained by the unflagging optimism of a modern-day Candide. He hadn't yet succeeded in changing the Constitution. His faith in his mission, however, had certainly made a lasting impression on all those who heard him talk.
So if you happen to see a slight man pulling a little red wagon along a busy freeway, no need to offer him a ride. Instead, give him a few minutes of your time, and you will be rewarded with the vision of a better world.