“Oh my gosh, you’re that lady!”
“I read about you in the newspaper.”
“Hey, you’re a local celebrity.”
“Can I have your autograph for my granddaughters?”
After 5 interviews in a row, some front page coverage and a TV news spotlight, I had become a local phenomena, a celebrity. Suddenly, people knew who I am and what I’m doing. In the past, I have been a public spectacle a number of times and occasionally a local celebrity, but I have never been asked for my autograph or treated with such regard.
I’m not sure what to think of this.
On the one hand, I want people to know about Walking Home and join in the fun. On the other hand, I don’t want publicity to radically change the project. I am worried that a lot of publicity or big national press could take away some of the sweetness I’ve experienced so far. I am afraid that people might help me because they saw me on TV and think I’m famous.
One of the most impressive and wonderful things about this project is all the random kindness from strangers. People help me because I am a stranger in their town, because a friend called them and asked if they could host me, or because I am a lone woman out on a hot day. People help me because they are kind and like to help people.
I suppose this won’t change just because of a little publicity. I suppose I shouldn’t worry over something that hasn’t even happened yet.
But worry I do. This was a week of worries. Having a bigger audience has made me self-conscious. Up to now, I’ve felt like I was flying under the radar, floating along, only worrying about where to sleep each night.
Suddenly a lot more people were watching. As my hosts opened up and told me about their lives, passions, and beliefs, I realized that we weren’t in private, that I’d invited an audience into their living room. Their neighbors might be watching and could find something they said to be objectionable. In the morning, I’d be moving on to the next town, but my hosts wouldn’t. I’m glad that people feel comfortable telling me about their political beliefs and personal lives. Now and then, I remind them that we are on camera. I hope that my being there doesn’t create problems for them, or, at least, that it opens more doors than it shuts.
After all, this project is about hearing people’s stories, about seeing what america is like in the 21st century. So far, I’m impressed. There is more diversity of ideas, beliefs and peoples than I expected to find in the middle of the country. Instead of worrying about other people’s prejudices, it seems like it is my own I need to worry about…