Ever end up somewhere that makes you lose words?
You’re sitting in a car with 5 wonderful people you’ve just met zooming down the winding streets of Nowhere, Tennessee trying not to get hit by on-coming trucks and everyone is screaming along to “Son of a Bitch” by Nathaniel Ratecliffe and the Night Sweats. One girl, she’s got an amazing playlist and keeps the tunes coming. Outside, the hills open up to show the glory of the distant mountains. You can still see tiny snow caps and you know you’re lucky to be in the sunny valley with your friend’s family. You are all laughing because you are alive and happy to see each other. You are in a moment of pure sunshine. You are so full of feeling you think maybe you could cry, but you’re not going to. You do not know how to explain this in the moment. You still don’t even days after the moment has passed. You’re not sure words exist to describe the way you feel. It’s something deeper and fuller than happiness. Something birthed from freedom, from love.
This is how I got back to my family in Corolla, NC so that I could take a week off from the trail and rest my knees.
Humans are so kind.
It’s cool if you lost your faith in humanity. It’s totally easy to when you’re aimlessly shooting through the world and reading the news. Hey, I’m not calling you a terrible person, or erratic, or pointless. I’m saying that you’re fuzzy and out of focus, and this happens to everyone. It happened to me, too.
Not being mindful or present or focused on what’s in front of you can make “everything” feel pointless. What’s the point if…? Well, exactly. There’s not much of a point when you don’t care about anything in particular.
Alright, I’ll admit that there is an unusually specific attitude of kindness and love surrounding the Appalachian Trail. The love and support started somewhere, and people just kept paying it forward. Trail magic exists. There is love and kindness spread around constantly. Such is the way of the trail! But I’m noticing so much more in the world now because of it, and I feel more open, more solid, more alive, more happy.
I want that for you, too. If this story doesn’t inspire you to believe, to pay kindness forward, then I’ll tell you more. And if you get sick of hearing me gush about how beautiful humans are, then stop reading my blog and go back to your hovel. Or just keep living life. You’re gonna be fine either way.
I was frantically FaceTiming my best friend and aunt from Hot Springs, NC in hopes that someone would help me because I physically could not hike another mile. I needed a place to stay, somewhere I didn’t have to pay for, somewhere I could stretch out my knees and chill. But Hot Springs? That’s along the western border of NC, hours away from anyone’s residence. No one was answering my calls. I had a very relaxed but bleak outlook on my future.
By 8pm, I had no hike and no help. At least Walkamole shared a beer with me. And boy, it tasted good.
Then two amazing things simultaneously happened: Katrice called me back with the news that Aunt Ginny could put me up in Zionville for a few days AND Pineapple came back from his phone call with his family. Aunt Ginny lived two hours away, but was willing to come pick me up. What a gem! That would be a lovely option. I just didn’t want to be too much of a burden having to get back to the trail, and wasn’t sure how long I would actually need to rest. Then Pineapple turned to me and said,
“Hey Wayne, Quincy said she loves road trips and would come down here to hang out and then bring you back to Richmond or wherever.” What? Put the beer down. Lean forward in disbelief. No freakin’ way.
“Yeah, it’s really no big deal. I think my whole family would come. They love stuff like that. Hey, then you could meet them!” Oh my god. So wait. A new friend’s family would come all the way down from Virginia to hang out and bring my sorry broken butt back to my own family in Richmond (which turned out to be Corolla, because it’s spring break and time to go to the beach). I couldn’t believe it. This is a new level of kindness.
“Oh my gosh, that’d…I mean, that’d be amazing,” I stuttered.
By Saturday, I ended up in a car
full of awesome women and an awesome Pineapple zooming down and around Tennessee/North Carolina in an electric/relaxed state. After meeting the Pinkstons, I can wholeheartedly say my life and attitude has changed. I’m not sure where to begin, though. How to describe their jovial tenderness escapes me. Every minute of the car ride created a new sense of solid happiness inside my heart.
Man, I just can’t stop thinking about it. Seriously, these people are so freaking cool.
I couldn’t stop thanking them for everything. “Why of course, we’d do anything for a friend of John Russel’s, we wanted to come see him anyway! And just pay it forward, you know?”
Take a second
wherever you are and take a deep breath. Open your eyes. I’m not begging you to help others, to go five hours out of your way and drive a limping hiker back to her family.
Just look out the passenger window of the car. Turn up the music. Play and song and sing along. Make eye contact with someone you love and smile, because you’re together and you’re alive. Dance. There are happy moments in the middle of every day. Don’t let them pass you by. Don’t let them slip through the cracks.