“It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles.”
That’s the motto of Eddy Rodriguez, a man from the Miami, Fla., area who is walking from his hometown all the way to Washington, D.C.
His route will consist of about 1,050 miles and he’s planning on getting to the nation’s capital sometime in July. He left Miami on March 20, but like he said: “It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles.”
“I can average about 15 (miles in a day), and I’ve done as little as five and as many as 22 so far,” Rodriguez said as he walked toward Hwy. 17 in Savannah. “But the more smiles I capture, that’s what it’s all about.”
Bryan County residents may have caught a glimpse of Rodriguez as he passed through the area last week. He was the man walking down Hwy. 17, pulling a wagon with a sign that reads “This is a good sign” and waving to every car that passed by.
“There was a time in my life when I was really depressed,” Rodriguez said.
It all started about five years ago when he nearly lost his business after a manager mishandled funds. Then his daughter died after a moped accident during a trip to Korea with her husband. And then Rodriguez had a cerebral hemorrhage and was told by doctors he wouldn’t make it through the night.
“I had two tragedies and a mishap in nine months – I just fell into a depression,” he said. “When I discovered how to be happy again, it made me so joyful that I wanted to go out and teach it to as many people as I could.”
Rodriguez said one day during his depression, he was asked what he wanted for his birthday – and the answer he came up with has changed his life.
“I couldn’t think of anything other than for people to get along for one day,” he said. “That idea inspired me to look into how I could make that happen. I knew if I could help other people, I would be happy myself.”
And it seems to be working. The smile on Rodriguez’s face comes through his voice with surprising sincerity. And though his memory isn’t what it used to be before the cerebral hemorrhage, he tries to remember everyone he encounters and how they helped him out or made his day better.
Like the couple that owns an arts and crafts store along Hwy. 17 in or near Midway who gave Rodriguez a case of water and some food and “shared their AC” for about an hour while they were closing up. Or the woman he met the next day who is studying metaphysics and talked about “having a positive mindset and how to help people achieve happiness through positive actions.” And the railroad engineer who asked about the sign on his wagon and ended up giving him a ride to a hotel for the night.
“I’m just sharing smiles and offering tidbits on how to appreciate things,” Rodriguez said. “Like how to understand that when people say some things, it’s not truly them – it’s just the situation they’re in, and to know that you are loved and love yourself.”
Rodriguez’s goal – aside from making people smile – is to have a large group of people end up in Washington with him for a “smiling at America” video he has planned. He’s even hoping to get the Obama family to join in the video.
“I’m trying to start a happiness movement across the country,” he said.
Rodriguez noted that although he’s getting lots of help along the way, he is also looking for sponsors that are willing to assist him in his journey. Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor, or looking for more information about Rodriguez and his mission, can visit http://smilesandwaveamerica.com.
“I’m doing this kind of on a wing and a prayer,” Rodriguez said. “I just want to bring happiness in the world.”