1,700 miles and 75 towns in 120 days: Chicago’s walking man’s journey comes to an end

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Through 1,700 miles, six states, 75 towns and 120 days, Chicago’s walking man was on a mission to meet his fellow man in the middle, a mission that recently came to an end in Hope, Texas.

John Inserra started his walk from north to south across the United States because of his concern over a nation divided. WGN featured him at the halfway mark of his journey.

Now that Inserra has crossed the finish line, his feet are sore and his heart is full, with hopefulness and optimism remaining.

For the 55-year-old of Mount Prospect, walking nearly 2,000 miles across the US from north to south over the past four months has been nothing short of an education. He’s been trying to spark a conversation about America’s division in current times.

This journey showed him that today’s negativity is too much for everybody, regardless of where you live or what you belive.

“In the core of everybody’s desire, they would like to see our country become more united,” Inserra said.

After retiring from the restaurant industry, Inserra founded FOSH, or For Our Shared Humanity. It’s a non-profit giving a voice to people in search of common ground.

Since August, Inserra has been hitting the pavement, wandering through flower farms and trekking through the rain in the search for what Americans have in common, not what tears them apart. He said he found it in Oklahoma, where he met Kimberly of King Fischer. She owns a coffee shop called Strange Brew.

“They all told stories about how this has become the center of the town for connection and conversation and it’s sort of where they meet in the middle,” Inserra said.

In Enid, Inserra found it as well. It was in the eyes and hearts of young students at Chisholm Elementary School where they had invited him in. Inserra called the encounter the thrill of a lifetime.

Inserra got to eat with new friends, such as the Bryant family in Waco, Texas. In another Texas town, Aledo, he bumped into a man he calls ‘Aledo Joe.’

He spends his days waving and nodding to all the cars and passers by in his hometown, twice each day. As one can imagine, Inserra and Aledo Joe may be different, but they learned that they think a lot alike.

Breaking down barriers with a smile and a wave and meeting their fellow man in the middle by taking one step at a time.

“Choose kindness, slow things down to the pace of walking so you can connect in a real, genuine level and keep your eyes open and keep your heart open to the possibilities,” Inserra said.

Inserra is now on his way back to Chicago, deciding what to do with all the knowledge he’s gained about his fellow man. He’s figuring out how to spread the message of positivity and unity after he hangs up his walking shoes for a while.

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