By Fredie Carmichael / editor
After meeting Matthew Perdie, I don't think I'll ever complain about walking again.
While some of us complain about walking to the mail box every day, this guy says it's "the best decision I ever made" to literally walk across the country. Despite the blisters — and the blisters of the blisters — and the daily encounters with oncoming traffic, Perdie keeps walking.
He began in Long Island, N.Y. on June 22 and has now made his way to Meridian ... all on foot. His journey will end some time next year on the West Coast. His goal: literally walk across the country to learn about the country's cultures and its people and film his experiences. The filmmaker has already begun editing episodes on his Web site, perdie.com. He hopes to use his walk to bring awareness to what he considers gross overspending by the federal government.
"I just felt like I had to do something, something big," Perdie, 24, told me as he sipped hot tea at Cater's Market in North Meridian this past week.
Perdie took a slight break from walking this week as he stopped for a few days in Meridian. A few members of the local Tea Party movement helped house and feed him before he heads west later today.
Aside from his awareness campaign, Perdie has met, and documented, countless meetings with total strangers. With every person, every town, every road, Perdie gains new perspective.
"I didn't want to just believe everything I read and saw in the mainstream media," he said. "I wanted to learn for myself. I wanted to see what Americans were really like. It's great. I look forward to every day."
It's a pretty simple, yet novel, idea. And quite profound.
It made me reflect on an experience I had in high school. I was complaining every day about what I considered to be a lack of leadership in a certain school club. The more I complained, the less people listened. Finally, someone told me something I've never forgotten: "Do something about it. It does no good to complain. If you're not part of the solution, you are, by neglect, a part of the problem. Become the solution by doing something."
That has always stuck with me and motivated me to this day. That, in short, is what Matthew Perdie is doing.
Agree with his politics or not, it's a pretty remarkable endeavor. He didn't just sit and complain; he acted.
I can't think of anything more American, which makes it fitting that he walks the country carrying the American Flag.
When Perdie stops to visit a town, he gets around with the help of locals. In Meridian, I picked him up at K Salon after a lady he met at a restaurant gave him a free haircut. Next door, Harry Mayer also donated some socks for his blistered feet. With a small bag, and his video camera in hand, he jumped in my pick-up truck and we drove around Meridian. His story was interesting.
He's just an average guy who decided to do something pretty big.
After a night of the Marion Christmas Parade and Bela Fleck at the MSU Riley Center, I took Perdie back to a pool house he was staying at south of town. As we drove, I asked him: "So, what do you think of Meridian? How does it compare to other places you've seen, honestly?"
"I like it. It's a really nice place. Everyone is so nice," he said. "After all this is over and I decide where I'm going to live, I'd like it have some qualities like Meridian."
That made me feel proud. It's always nice to hear someone say nice things about your hometown.
As he travels across the rest of the country, I hope he reflects on his time in Meridian in a positive light. If you see him walking on the side of the road as he leaves town today, be sure and give him a warm Meridian welcome and wish him well on his journey.
Fredie Carmichael is executive editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.