Posted: Wednesday September 27, 2006

Father and son find what they’re looking for on ‘a people trip’ across the country
By Sylvia Slaughter, Staff Writer, The Tennessean
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A father and son began an adventure with a conversation.

“Isn’t there any good news anywhere?” the son asked the father.

The father thought, then responded that perhaps they should find out.

They took a year off from their busy schedules and went goodwill hunting. The father took time from his role at Eller & Olsen Stone Co., the son from his studies as a Lipscomb University graduate student.

Beginning in July 2003 and ending in June 2004, they visited all 50 states, talking to at least two total strangers in each state.

Their method for picking their interviewees was pure happenstance. If they missed an exit on the interstate, they took the next one. If one diner where they decided to stop was too full, they ventured to a random restaurant. If a man out-walked them on the sidewalk, they stopped the strolling fellow behind them.

Scott Price and son Pat ended up with 106 new friends and a manuscript they plan on publishing.

If anyone doubts there’s goodwill on the good earth, these two are ready to win the argument.

“It’s hard to believe,” Scott says, “but everyone we stopped and talked with was eager to talk with us and eager to let us take their pictures. We had a great time.”

“There was Priscilla Metcalf of Bucksport, Maine, who ran a roadside produce stand and whose husband called her Mahhh-thaaa (as in Martha Stewart). There was Juanita Evans who’s done most of the things she wants to do except meet God. There was Roger Fernandez of Milford, Del., who said his best decision was deciding to learn to type. He was given an administrative assignment in the U.S. Marine Corps, while 67% of his buddies in his training platoon at Parris Island became casualties in the Vietnam War.”

The folks they met were ordinary folks who said extraordinary things.

The father and son devised a plan to test the boundaries of goodwill. They left a stamped, self-addressed envelope with each interviewee with an enclosed letter that asked them to take the $10 inside and do goodwill with it.

They were barely home when they began receiving replies. One man helped a poor person pay her utility bill, placing the money on the counter and telling her, “This isn’t from me.” Another woman gave it to a family where the wife was battling cancer and the bank was foreclosing on their home. A third person, a drug addict on the mend, fixed sack lunches for other homeless people with addictions.

They are still receiving letters about the destiny of the goodwill bucks they left behind.

“Some people really wanted to use their $10 where it would do the most good,” Scott says. “I’m just amazed how they decided to use the money.”

Though the Prices often flew to a state and rented a car, they don’t consider their sojourn a road trip.

“It was a people trip,” Scott says. “We wanted to test folks’ friendliness, their compassion, their charity.”

After the father and son met their interviewees and explained their mission, they asked each of them a list of questions Pat compiled.

Who would you like to meet someday? What’s your favorite thing about your community? What have you learned that benefits you the most? That kind of question.

No one seemed too busy to talk, Pat said. Nor were they offended at the questions. They were intrigued by the father-son jaunt, which Pat made mostly by wheelchair to accommodate his life with spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spinal column.

No one he met was rudely curious about his condition, either.

Perhaps that was because Pat was such an engaging conversationalist, his father said.

Before the trip, father and son believed that their bond couldn’t be broken, that they wouldn’t grow agitated with each other during the year-long mission. They were right.

Every week or so, they flew home to check on Scott’s wife, Ann Price, and their daughter, Rachel, who was away at college and didn’t see their goodwill hunting as the adventure that her brother and dad did.

That was, until Scott and Pat began their plans to query two unsuspecting folks in Hawaii.

Rachel insisted that she go along for some fun in the Aloha State. She has since decided that the father-son quest was, if not ideal, at least a novel idea.

Publishers think it was, too.

More important, they knew for themselves that there is goodwill in America.

All they have to do is open their mailbox.

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