The people who just want to help

Daniel Alvarez, whom I profiled in this space last Friday, updates his blog every day. But the posts are usually from things that happened two weeks ago. It’s better that way, he explained, for additional security on his trip from Minnesota to Key West by kayak.

He’s probably right, and that fact stands in stark contrast to many of the posts, which detail the utter goodness of people he’s met along the way.

Like this person…


It’s “Jess,” at the Chap Restaurant in Brainerd…

I’ve resupplied in strange places before-small gas stations, a barrel of extra food someone had left, a post office in the middle of nowhere-but I’ve never even been inside a restaurant’s freezer before and certainly not with a box and an invitation to fill my kayak with whatever I wanted. I hesitated, not sure what to do, so Jess started piling things in for me.

She’s a traveler, home for a bit, but once you travel like her, you never forget what great food can do for your spirits. Where I was shy, she was bold, stacking enough food in the box for a week, filling it with bags of cinnamon buns and wild rice, a tray of bread and sliced turkey, carrot sticks and cups of ranch dressing, thick slices of lasagna, stacks of crackers, a block of cheese, and chunks of cantaloupe.

Jess looked in the box for a moment and ran back into the refrigerator.

“Frosting,” Jess said. “You need frosting.”

She pulled out a giant bowl and poured cups of frosting in a bag for the cinnamon buns. She might as well have spooned out happiness.

A few days laster, he was on Michael Feldman’s Whad’ya Know? show and after that, he got an e-mail from a listener downstream in Prescott.

When I saw him at the boat ramp in South Saint Paul on Monday, he said he’d hoped to make it downstream by that evening, where a “friend” had promised him a place to stay and a home-cooked meal for the night.

It was the e-mailer from Prescott.