By Claire Walla
If you were in Sag Harbor last Friday, June 1, you might have run into a man named Robert Wood.
(Hint: he was the one carrying the giant 35-pound cross.)
Wood has been traveling the length of Long Island since Tuesday, when he set out on this journey — entirely on foot — from Shirley. (He originally began his journey in his hometown of Freeport on April 30, but rain delayed the rest of his trip. Last Tuesday he picked up where his left off.)
It’s a mode of travel he’s very familiar with, having completed this journey in several different locales, once allegedly walking from Texas to New York.
Wood has been traveling with little more than the clothes on his back, a small satchel of Band-Aids and water bottles, a Holy Bible and his accreditation from the Interfaith Fellowship, which he has “for life.”
“To remind people that Christ died for our sins,” he explained.
Wood, who was born and raised in Freeport, “with the clamdiggers on the South Shore,” described a very difficult childhood, which revolved around the death of his mother. He said this drove his father to the bottle, prompting him to run away from home and, ultimately, wind up as a male prostitute.
At the time, Wood said, “I didn’t know what the word of God wanted me to do because I couldn’t read it.”
Finally, at the age of 33, Wood moved to a small town in Texas called Mansfield, so small, Wood said, “you couldn’t even find it on the map.” He walked into a church and met with the pastor who agreed to teach him to read. (Wood discovered he had dyslexia.)
He didn’t begin his cross-bearing journeys until a few years ago when he read Matthew 16:24:?“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”
Wood took it quite literally.
In 2010, when the church in Mansfield Texas closed down, Wood said the Lord told him to go back to New York.
”I’m going to be walking this cross throughout the state,” he continued, noting that he’s next headed to the five boroughs. Then he’ll trek upstate.
Looking down at his feet, covered with thick-soled brown boots, Wood noted the pain in his toes and admitted that parts of his journey are difficult.
“This morning, I was being unfaithful,” he explained last on a bench outside Phao Restaurant in Sag Harbor. “I didn’t want to walk anymore, so I said, ‘God, can you give me a ride home?!’ But he said no. So I finished my walk.”
As for where he’ll head when he completes this journey, Wood admitted he has no idea.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do after this walk,” he said. ”If God told us the whole story, we’d find a way to mess it up.”