Friday afternoon I was heading up Los Coches Rd. in Lakeside to pick up my son, after buying him some lunch at a local fast food place. Driving up that long steep hill, I saw something I had never seen before. Something that was so different that it took me a few seconds to understand what I was looking at.
It was a man walking and carrying a huge wooden cross with a large U.S. Flag. As you know, in life you have choices and I had the choice to keep driving, but my, let's call it curiosity, led me to pull over to the side of the road. Using my cell phone I searched for "man walking with big cross" and was surprised to see that there were several men doing this. In fact, there was one man in Menifee that had been carrying a flag around the county to bring awareness to cancer.
I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the top of the flag as the cross-carrying man drew closer to my car, and I decided I wanted to talk to him. I jumped out of the car and walked towards him and he told me that his name was Joe Shortino and that he was called by God to make the cross and start walking. He had been on the road for nine months.
"I've been through Ohio and Oklahoma, all of Texas, Colorado, Arizona," said Joe. "I came here, and I leave tomorrow to go to LA. Then I'll walk Compton, Watts, Kenshaw and go all the way up the coast."
It was amazing to me that he had walked through all those states on foot, let alone pulling a cross.
"I was in the oil fields nine months ago making $15,000 a month and the Lord called me to build a cross and I would carry it."
As he talked I saw that the foot of the cross on one side was on wheels and on the other side on top was a duffel bag. Joe told me that he had sold everything he owned and what was left was in that duffel bag.
"I have never spent a night on the streets," said Joe. "At the end of the day the Lord will lead me to a motel where someone will pay for my room or I will meet someone that will take me in."
Joe asked me if I would sign his cross and there were so many signatures that it was hard to find a place to put my name. As I leaned the cross towards me to sign it, I noticed how heavy it was, and Joe told me it weighed 150 pounds.
As I said my goodbyes, it popped into my head that I had bought my son some lunch and it was sitting in the car.
"Do you want something to eat," I asked. "I have a Jack-in-the-Box sandwich and Coke in my car."
His eyes lit up, letting me know that he was very hungry. We walked a bit back up to my car and I handed it to him.
"Are you sure it's okay?" he asked me.
"Yes. It's yours. It had always been yours. I just didn't know at the time I was actually buying it for you."
We make choices every single day. Little ones, like when I decided to stop and talk to Joe and big ones, like when Joe decided to sell everything he had and started walking across the US for God, carrying a big cross. Although he would be the first one to tell you it wasn't his decision.
When I picked up my teen son, I told him I had given his lunch to a man walking down the street with a big cross. His only response, "Cool."
To learn more about Joe and to follow his journey, go to his website page called "Were Called to Battle."