Rudy Hummel plans to head for the great indoors

Rudy Hummel’s year of sleeping outside is almost over.

The Hermantown teenager started his quest last June, and never gave up, even during the brutal winter.

At first, the Duluth News Tribune reports today, he was just going to sleep outside all summer. When that went pretty well, he decided to extend the idea to see if he could stay outside for a full year.

On Saturday night, he’ll sleep in his own bed.

“When I decide to do something, I can be pretty persistent,” he said. “My life philosophy is: If you want it badly enough and you’re willing to put in enough time and effort and stress, you can get it.”

As his outside-sleeping odyssey unfolded, Hummel began to look at the world differently in several ways. The experience gave him empathy for people who are homeless and don’t have a choice about sleeping outside, he said. It also has given him perspective on his place in the world.

“You think about a squirrel, or a bird at the bird feeder,” he said. “We consider them visitors, yet they live here, and we’re just as much visitors as they are.”

He had to be in Chicago last weekend, which presented a challenge to his marathon. But he set up a tent outside the hotel and learned another lesson, he writes on his blog.

The final night, too, passed without incident, until morning, when I awoke to the unmistakable sound of footsteps outside my tent. My heart started pounding in my chest. Reason told me that this was probably a harmless hotel guest, but who knew? I quietly unzipped the tent flap and climbed out to see a man leaning against the railing with his back to me. Heart still thrashing, I began to take down my tent. He heard me and turned, watching me curiously. “Good morning,” he said with a warm smile and twinkling, amused eyes. I smiled back and returned his words. “Beautiful morning to come drink coffee in the sun,” he said, taking a sip.

“Yeah, I really like the morning light,” I replied. “That’s why I started sleeping outside.”

There followed a long and pleasant conversation as he helped me take down my tent, in which I learned that he was originally from Colorado and that he was an avid camper himself, even in his seventies. We spoke about the connection when we slept outside, the deep, soul-fulfilling peace of mind gained from time in the outdoors. When we finally went our separate ways, I gave him a poster, and he promised to sleep outside on the 6th.

This guy really taught me something important. I think I’ve always known it, but it took meeting him to truly realize that we should never lose faith in humanity. No matter how many people there are that will hurt you or take your money, there will always be those who will have a heartwarming conversation with you on a shining morning. Those people are the true friends of the world; they will help you when you need them, even if they don’t know you. They’ll give you a smile when you’re feeling down, they’ll offer you a hand when you’ve fallen, they’ll even sleep outside for you or donate to your fundraiser. It doesn’t matter how different your beliefs are, or where you came from. They’ll be there for you when you need them.