Will Henry

This is a story for Easter.

Will Henry had everything going his way.  He survived the first set of layoffs in the last quarter of 2008, has a girlfriend, and a nice bachelor pad.  Will was a bit cocky, flirt, but realistic guy.  Will was a well-dressed man, wearing suits and ties, sweaters, and the occasional sweater vest when he went out.  He worked in sales for an insurance company and was good at it.  He was not the best, but meets expectations.  Will also thought he was immune to trouble, no matter the situation.  However, on February 14, 2009, Will was a victim of his own Valentine’s Day Massacre.

On that Valentine’s Day at work, he was summoned into the office by his supervisor.  The supervisor was a straight shooter and mention that sales were way down because of the recession in the economy.  Then, he went on to say,

“Will, thank you for being part of our team and helping us get some loyal customers.  However, we have to cut costs and by your performance, it was not bad, but you were among one of the worst performers in our organization and you have been laid off.  You will get severance for 3 months and your last day of the job is effective immediately.  I’m sorry”

Will just stood there in stunned silence like he was getting hit by a train.  He did not show any outside emotion about the layoff.  He didn’t say much and only two words came out of his mouth, “Thank You!” He left to his office and pack things up and said goodbye to his co-workers.  When he went to his car, he sat there for 5 minutes and finally broke down.  It continued on for 15 minutes and then he drove out.

When Will finally got home, he swallowed up his pride and quickly dresses to take his girlfriend for a Valentine’s Day dinner.  Will double check on his email and saw that her girlfriend had an emergency and cancelled the dinner that night.  One week later, at a chain restaurant, Will saw her girlfriend talking to another guy and feeling intimate.  Will saw and stood there for a minute and his heart just dropped.  Will head back home in distraught and had nowhere to go.  Will heads home, undressed and put away his clothes in his closet.  He saw a picture of him as a kid in church.  He looked at it and after he went through, he knew he had to change someone: himself.  The following was the beginning of Lent and decided for the next several weeks, he’s sacrificing his good life.

Before Lent Season began, Will canceled his plans going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and focus on his grueling destination.  Will setup the rules for his Lent mission:

·         Will will only have $100 cash for the next 7 weeks.  Cannot ask for more money.

·         He can only carry clothes

·         He can’t go to a homeless shelter since he already has a home or go to a kitchen that serves homeless people

·         No electronic devices or ask people for electronic devices (cell phones, iPhones, iPods, MP3s, cameras, and others)

·         Catholic Lent rules apply (no meat on Fridays during Lent Season)

·         Fasting means no food for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, not the 2 small meals, 1 large meal deal.

·         No loophole Sunday stuff

·         Must go to a different Catholic Church each Sunday and for Holy Thursday and Good Friday

·         Cannot ask for directions, going to someone’s house to sleep or shower or stay in any car.

·         Cannot take taxi, hitchhike, subway or bus.  Must do this on foot.

·         The mission begins in Fairfax and ends in Washington, DC

·         Finally, the only goal on this mission is if Will achieve what he wanted to do.

Before leaving, Will told his parents that he is going on a Lent mission and will come back on Easter, he then locked all of his belongings on a safe and gave it to his best friend, Shawn, whom he had known since high school and told him to keep out of harm.  Will paid his rent and bills early so he wouldn’t be penalized.  Then, Will strategize where to go in the next 7 weeks to prevent duplication. Finally on Fat Tuesday, Will had a big meal to prepare for Lent.  On midnight, the mission began.

Week 1

It was uneventful since Will had to stay around the Fairfax area since he had to go to two masses in the same week.  He went first to St. Leo for Ash Wednesday to take his ashes and began his mission.  After mass ended, Will took all of his belongings (shirts, shoes, underwear, socks) and hit the sidewalks.  He walked down a busy intersection in Fairfax and saw people were mad that traffic hadn’t move and from a pedestrian perspective, Will saw no reason for this anger since he saw there was a huge accident upfront, but people were more worried about their own interests.  Will laughed it off and moved on.  Since he was around in Fairfax for the next few days, Will remembered there was a Popeye’s around the corner and wanted to go there for their Louisiana Shrimp Basket, which was $4.99.  He got 3 orders since he’ll be traveling and will take nibbles since he has only $100.  On Sunday, he went to Mission of Our Lady for the First Sunday of Lent and then the real adventure begins.

Week 2

Since Will cannot stay at a motel or at a house, he had to rely on shear will. In the beginning of March, it began to snow heavily in the D.C. area and Will uses his camping skills as an Eagle Scout to survive this treacherous weather.  He had no food and must spread out his money for 6 weeks, so he had to find it in this awful weather.  In the area, there were no stores in sight, and all Will had left was a biscuit.  Will’s next big project on this mission is to have a food supply that will last him a long time.  Sadly, there was no Wal-Mart in sight since everything was discounted, but Will thought of another place where he can get the essential foods…H Mart.  Since fruits and vegetables were very cheap at H Mart, Will took advantage and took as many as he can.  He bought nearly $30 of fruits, vegetables, and water.  Will put it in his bag and knew that he had to take it easy on the eating.  Week 2 ended at the Church of Dunn Loring.

Week 3

It was cold still, but it was sunny and it rejuvenated Will for a bit.  For this week travel, he went to Tyson’s Corner and saw a bunch of business people driving and they feel very ordinary like it was another typical work day.  Of course, the only personality they showed was anger from more traffic.  Tyson’s Corner was also the first big hurdle for Will as Tyson’s Corner has tons of restaurants, stores, and temptation.  Will knows he cannot spend a lot of money, but he use Tyson’s Corner as an opportunity.  Since he couldn’t shower at anyone’s house, Will use the mall bathrooms as his shower.  He takes water from the sink and goes to a bathroom stall and washes himself with the water he took, changes clothes and heads out.  Will still had to fight the urge of what he has, but cannot use it for this mission.  Will was still comfortable since he had plenty of food under his circumstances and $60 left.  The week ended at the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, where the kids are very joyful, plenty of double parking, and a language Will never understood.

Week 4

After leaving Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, Will headed to Arlington, but met a bunch of Asians in Ballston.  The Asians were mocking Will of his homeless and heavy beard look.  The Asians were part of a gang at the Eden Center and now try to establish their territory in Ballston.  The gang walked away until someone saw that Will had some money in the pocket.  The gang pulled out their knives and surrounded Will.  Will wanted to fight it, but he was outnumbered by members and weapons.  Will gave up and gave the money to the gang.  After that, one of them took his clothing and gave a sucker punch to Will’s face, knocking him unconscious.  The gang left with the clothes and the money and adding insult to injury, the gang threw the vegetables at his face, which gave many cuts and bruises on Will’s face.  The following day, Will got up wounded and wobbly after that attack.  There were no police or anyone else helping him and had a hard time walking straight.  Will had no money, no additional clothes, and starving.  The fruits and vegetables were spoiled after it rolled into a puddle and they were inedible.  Will was struggling to go somewhere, but founded someone who looked desperate.

Will saw a homeless man going through a dumpster and founded a half pizza uneaten and saw the guy took a bite.  Will was disgusted at first.  However, he read a story about a homeless guy going through trash and found is treasure since the young adults live in the city throw away the good stuff.  Will tried to find an area where a lot of young adults live.  Luckily, the Ballston to Court House section is full of young adults and hence the “treasure” is big.  Since Will did not move around after being injured, so he loads up on stock from pizza, steak, salmon for Fridays and others.  It was not pretty, but this was the only thing Will can eat now with no money.  After being stagnant for a few days, Will heads off to find another Catholic Church, St. Ann.

Week 5

Will was still hurt from the attack last week, but relief came when the D.C. area was pouring in rain since it was the start of spring.  It gave Will second wind and the rain acted as a cure for his injuries.  Slowly every day, Will was gaining power from the rain and by the end of the week, although not 100%, Will can finally think straight and his mission to D.C. is back on track.  The week ended at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish.

Week 6

A lot of cars were coming northbound to Arlington and it was bigger than usual.  Will never had a slightest clue why there is a lot of traffic.  He looked around Arlington and then went to Rosslyn.  There, he saw the big screen from WJLA7 that the cherry blossoms were coming out and visitors are coming to enjoy the festivities.  Will had this adrenaline rush and never thought about food or any previous troubles he had, Will knew he was close.  At the end of the week, Will had made it not only to D.C., but he was in the middle of cherry blossom festival.  Will absorb the nature and beauty of the cherry blossoms and took it in stride.  Although Will arrived to D.C. one week early, the mission was not done since there is one week to go in Lent.  Will knows he had one week to survive, but the nature of D.C. made it easier for Will to relax the next week.  The week ended on Palm Sunday at Saint Stephen Martyr.  The palms were eco-friendly from Guatemala, which Will kept and cherish.

Holy Week

Will knew that D.C. is a great walking city and had plenty of time to enjoy the museums and monuments of D.C. like he never did.  Will still had no money and had little food available.  For the next 4 days, Will walked around the city and went to local colleges to see if naïve students throw away good food.  On Holy Thursday, he went to St. Peter’s Catholic Church and then took a nap outside the church.  On Good Friday, Will took a walk to D.C. one last time to relive what he achieved the past 7 weeks.  Of course there were obstacles and Will made it too rough of a standard that he set, but after being punished by losing his job and losing his girlfriend, those events were nothing that he endured those 7 weeks.

It was Friday evening, and Will needed to go to a different church.  He found it in Cathedral of St. Matthew in downtown D.C.  Will arrived there at 6PM, stayed through mass, and stayed through prayer until 11:45 PM on a Friday evening.  Fifteen minutes later, the clock struck midnight and Lent season was over and Will’s mission finally completed…unless he can find someone to take him home in Fairfax without money.  Will realizes he has no money and does not feel like any assistance right now.  Then, Will felt something strange on his right foot.  He sat down, took off his right shoe and rubs it since it was aching.  He looked at his shoe and saw three $1 bills.  Since it was midnight in D.C., the maximum cost is $2.35.  Will had no idea he had $3 on his shoe and thought what he deserved to get that $3?  Will thought about it, but he could not come with an explanation.  So, with his heavily beard, aching body, and soul refresh, Will took the Metro to Vienna/Fairfax and headed home.

Easter Weekend

When Will got home at 1 AM, he immediately slept for 10 hours.  When he woke up, he took his shower, shaved his beard, and ate a hearty breakfast for the first time in 7 weeks.  Will then had to pick up his belongings from Shawn and gave him a huge tip for keeping everything.  Will then reflected again on what he did, then he packed up and headed to Arlington (by car) to meet up with his family for Easter.  During the weekend, the Henry family enjoyed a nice buffet brunch and their own Easter Egg Hunt.  Will was enjoying not only real food finally, but enjoyed being with the kids.  After Easter ended, Will headed back home in Fairfax and saw he forgot to put away the eco-friendly palm into a vase and then he hatch an idea…

Afterwords

Will moved out of his apartment and bought an abandoned house in Fairfax City.  Although the house was torn up, it had plenty of grass in Fairfax City land to start his one of two new ventures…gardening.  Will started growing fruits and vegetables in his backyard to sell at the Farmers Market, which was a couple of blocks from his house.  Will’s other venture: teaching.  Will has a paid job as a school teacher at Providence Elementary School and a volunteer as a CCD teacher at St. Leo.  I guess walking for 7 weeks clears up the mind quite a bit.

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