LOS ANGELES (BP)–Ted Stone’s cross-country trek has been compared to the exploits of movie character “Forrest Gump,” but there’s a glaring difference.
In the movie, Gump, when asked the reason for his travels on foot across the country, could give no explanation. Stone, however, was walking with a definite goal in mind.
“I have a dream,” the motivational speaker told listeners in more than 200 speaking engagements during his 3,600-mile, eight-month walk across America. “My dream is that one day our children and our children’s children can live in a society that is free from this terrible drug problem that plagues our country today. I plead with you and your friends to share this dream with me.”
Stone, of Durham, N.C., a leader in the national fight against drug abuse, was presented a certificate of commendation on the steps of Los Angeles’ city hall by a representative of the mayor at the conclusion of his walk Nov. 19. The certificate recognized his “historic walk across American from the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to his final destination on the West Coast in an effort to help our nation win the war on drugs.”
An active Southern Baptist who was addicted to amphetamines in the early 1970s and eventually went to prison for more than four years, Stone termed his walk “my special way I can say ‘thank you’ to the American people for giving me a second chance and ‘thank you’ to God for giving me another opportunity.”
Absorbed in a book he is writing about his walk, Stone is now planning to visit each of the 50 states during 1997, sharing the same message of hope and commitment he offered to listeners in the 12 states and the District of Columbia included in his 1996 cross-country trek. This time, though, he will travel by plane, train or automobile.
Stone, who turned 62 on the trek, voiced his message of hope in his speaking engagements and wayside conversations especially to those hurting with drug-related problems and their loved ones. “You can be well. You can overcome the past. I am living proof,” said Stone, an avid advocate for faith-based treatment centers for drug abuse.
“I was a drug addict long ago,” he confessed, “but no longer! I am recovered forever by the grace of God, and that same hope can belong to you.”
That message was received and responded to by young and old, Stone said. He told of a young man in Texas who said after his presentation, “Today, God used you to change my life forever,” and of an aged woman who came to the altar to pray for a loved one being destroyed by drugs. “She was so frail, when she finished praying she couldn’t get up from the altar without help — but pray she did, and I believe the dear Lord will answer her cry,” Stone said.
Stone encouraged listeners to courageously and personally reach out to “those in the dark alleys. We are our brothers’ keepers,” he regularly proclaimed.
“I realize that I am only one person, carrying a flag and a message of hope over the highways of America,” he said, “but it is my sincere prayer that the spirit of my efforts will prove contagious, and that countless others will join me in this cause to save the country which we so dearly love.”
After beginning his trip in Washington, Stone first hiked south to Jacksonville, Fla., and then turned westward through the southern tier of states toward his ultimate destination, briefly venturing over the Mexico border to deliver a message translated into Spanish.