Posted: Wednesday September 27, 2006

The Journey of a Father and Son
By Mary E. Johnson, SBA, Director of Communications, Insights into Spina Bifida
March/April 2005

When Scott Price, a founder and Board Member of the Spina Bifida Foundation, first saw the cartoon in Barron’s, he had no idea where it would take him. It was a simple drawing of a father and son watching the evening news. The son asked, “Dad, has there ever been any good news?” It made Scott think about all the people who haven’t seen much good news lately.

Eleven months and 57,721 miles later, he and his son, Pat, had visited all 50 states and lived an adventure that captures your imagination and renews your faith in the goodness of people.

It was an easy task for Scott to convince Pat to take a year off while he decided whether to pursue a graduate degree in business or study law. Their goal was to travel to every state in the US and talk to people about their lives.

Pat asked the questions and Scott took the photos. Then each and every person was given a $10 bill and an envelope with the simple instructions, “Do something good for yourself, your family or your community.”

It didn’t start out as a book; it just kind of took on its own life and grew that way. “We got back so much more than we ever imagined,” says Scott. “We want people to be aware of all the good things that these good people have to say.”

They interviewed 106 people at flea markets, in restaurants, in stores, at car dealerships and on the street and were never once turned down. And over and over again they heard stories that were inspiring and life affirming.

“In terms of looking for good will – it was so abundant. So wide and so deep across this land,” says Scott. “We were overwhelmed by how easily people opened up to us. It was so refreshing to see that so many people love where they live, love what they do and love their spouse.”

They heard simple, unspoken declarations of love. Like the man in Michigan who was growing a beard so he could play Santa in his wife’s Christmas shop. It was his faith in her and his encouragement that gave her the courage to live out her dream and open the shop. Now, “Santa” and his wife would bring joy to all those who visited their little store.

Then there was the story of George Fernandez, who reckoned that he owed his life to a typing class. During the Vietnam War, his commanding officer knew that he could type so he assigned him to an administrative job. Sixty-seven percent of the members of his platoon were casualties of that war – George lived.

“We saw such a wonderful spirit across the country – an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Scott.

That entrepreneurial spirit was embodied in Sarah, who owned the Denali Cabins with her husband. Because of their Hindu faith, they left Pakistan and bought a series of motels and cottages across the United States. Their hearts and minds were never far from their family across the sea. When Sarah saw Denali, it reminded her of home and they settled in Alaska. At last they had achieved their dream; they had brought all of her husband’s sisters and brothers to the United States—-their new home.

And what about the $10 bills? Once again, the goodness of these “American originals,” as Scott calls them, glowed.

Carol, a sprightly waitress who was 65 years old, started a chain of good will. The Prices’ gift of $10 inspired her to make seven or eight gifts of $10 each. Her letter told Scott and Pat about all of them.

The $10 bill inspired an act of “random kindness” in a woman as she stood in line at the grocery store. In front of her was a young mother who spoke no English and struggled to reduce her grocery bill so that she could pay for the essentials. Solemnly she removed the cake and ice cream – special treats for her children – from the counter.

Suddenly the woman remembered the $10 bill she had tucked in the pocket of her coat that morning. She told Scott, “I remembered your smile and I knew that you’d want those kids to have ice cream and cake.”

The young mother never knew who or why, but her children had their treats.

“You reflect what you expect,” says Scott. “Pat and I both have been surrounded by good people all of our lives. We expected to find good people. Perhaps we were projecting to people that we expected to hear good things.

And Scott and Pat reflected the best. The final manuscript of their book is almost complete and they’re looking for a publisher. Because Pat has spina bifida and both are dedicated to the Spina Bifida Community, the Prices have already committed a portion of the proceeds to the Spina Bifida Foundation to continue its important work.

Pat sums it up simply, “There is so much good will. There are so many nice people in America. Nice people who do good things.”

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