She had just gotten bad news from her doctor and felt like her life was out of her control.
Then Joceline Tabacco, 39, said a prayer after leaving her doctor’s office. She had struggled with her health after rolling her truck eight times and had to relearn to walk and talk. She self-medicated with food, topping out around 280 pounds.
Doctors told her they wanted to put her on steroids to correct hormone problems she had after her accident. That news prompted her prayer.
She wasn’t sure who or what she was praying for.
Moments later, at a Panda Express drive-thru the cashier told her someone had already paid for her meal.
That act of kindness changed her life and inspired her to take a year-long walk across the United States to record and encourage random acts of kindness.
“That blew me away, because I didn’t even care about myself,” she said. “That anonymous individual who I will never be able to thank, lifted me up so high.”
Over the weekend, Tabacco walked into Franklin and recorded the owners of Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room giving a free meal to a customer.
Franklin was one stop on her year-long journey, where she is hoping to inspire and record Americans doing random acts of kindness to help the world. At the end of her journey she plans on writing a book about the experience.
Eventually, she wants to start a nonprofit dedicated to spreading random acts of kindness.
“The more we forget difference and treat each other as human beings, random acts of kindness can spur each other to live another day,” she said.
For now, she is only about a month into her journey that started Aug. 23 in Fort Wayne.
And Hoosiers have already shown her why she is making this walk, she said.
After shedding about 100 pounds with diet, exercise, fruit and veggie smoothies and walking in California, she decided she needed to take more action.
She gave up her apartment in her home state of California, sold and gave away her possessions and quit her job as a special education aide.
She prayed about where God wanted her to start her journey and Fort Wayne kept popping into her head. Tabacco had only been in Indiana once before when she spent a few days in Bloomington.
But she trusted God and started her year in Fort Wayne.
She travels between 9 and 20 miles each night, depending on how far the distance is between each community. A dump cart with her tent and what belongings she has is hitched around her waist.
Once she gets into a community, she makes connections with people and churches who offer her a place to pitch her tent, a home to sleep in and food to eat.
Monetary donations through her website and in people she meets help her pay her one bill — her cellphone.
“Loving people have helped me along the way,” she said. “This is exactly how it is supposed to go.”
So far, Hoosier hospitality has met her in every town. She pitched a tent at Grace United Methodist Church during her stop in Franklin.
“The small town people I have met have huge hearts,” she said.
So far in Indiana, a couple near Pendleton and Greenfield allowed her to stay at their home. Anderson police offers greeted her when she walked into town and Muncie college students helped her in that town.
Next she will trudge south to Columbus and Seymour before trying to make it south to escape the Midwest before winter. She plans on making her way up the east coast to get a different take on life than her California hometown has given her, she said.
“I think it is wonderful to be doing this on the other coast where people think differently,” she said.
And she hopes America will be a little bit of a kinder place after she has made her journey.