By Tim Farley
Heather Denman made it a point to awake early on May 3 so she could meet and visit with a California monk who was walking from coast to coast in the name of world peace.
Sutham Nateetong, a Buddhist monk who lives in Santa Monica, began walking from California to Chicago on Route 66 in March. He then plans to continue this journey to New York.
“I’m inspired anytime someone is that passionate about their cause that they will walk across the country,” Denman said. “It’s nice that he is representing such a positive message.”
On May 3, Denman was wearing a t-shirt with the words “Hope Lives Here,” which she said fuels her everyday life as a employee at the VA Center in Oklahoma City.
Nateetong has been a monk for five years after leaving a political life in Thailand where he served the government as a minister of education.
“I work for the politics and get nothing. Now I can teach everybody for meditation and peace,” he said.
The political in-fighting became too much and Nateetong decided to become a monk. With the help of an interpreter, Nateetong said his message is to “send loving kindness for everybody to be happy, to stop the wars, stop the bombs, to stop the killings and have happy world.”
Nateetong stopped in Yukon Thursday evening where he spent the night. He resumed his journey at Vacca Territory the next morning at about 7. Several residents met him at Vacca Territory to wish him well, shake his hand and give him money for his coast to coast trip.
The monk said he’s met many people and sends his “loving ideas” to everyone. He walks about 30 miles a day and, in many cases, people buy his lunch or dinner.
But this isn’t his first foray into long distance walking. He’s walked 4,600 kilometers, or more than 2,800 miles, in Japan and India.
Although the kindness of strangers is a certainty for Nateetong, the weather is always questionable, especially in Oklahoma.
“Some days are very windy, many rain,” he said, in broken English. “But I keep going in rain.”
During his journey along Route 66 in Oklahoma, the monk suffered through thunderstorms on at least two days, including the day he departed from Yukon.
The interpreter follows behind Nateetong as he walks and also prepares a place for him to sleep at nights. After reaching Yukon on May 2, Nateetong spent the night at a Buddhist temple in Del City. He returned to Yukon the next morning to begin his journey where he stopped the previous night.
Yukon attorney John Alberts was among the local residents who showed up early May 3 to meet the monk.
“It’s pretty cool that he’s walking for peace,” Alberts said. “Why can’t we all just get along? I think that’s a big deal to walk from San Francisco to Chicago.”