Because I do long distance hiking and must ask people for things, going past what is my true, introverted self, I have a multitude of stories and incredible, wonderful experiences of the generosity of the people I have met.
I have lost count a bit. But from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Omaha, Nebraska, 4 years’ worth of spring hikes, having to ask for places to stay most nights, for water, for places to use a bathroom, I have only been turned down about 30 or so times over 4 years. That’s 30 or so nos vs more than 500 or so yeses. And some of those no times had good reasons. Renters are often hesitant to host me as they do not own the property. Twice I have knocked on doors where the guy who answered was on house arrest and he was afraid he would get in trouble with his parole officer. I have also had lots of invitations inside to spare bedrooms, welcome showers and dinners. I have come to expect that every night will work out somehow and I’ll just have another great story to tell. It doesn’t always work out the way I wish or think it should. But it seems to always works out.
Near Chicago, a family who let me stay in their outbuilding, as the forecast was for rain, said as we shared dinner, “But we hear every day on the news about murders in Chicago.” That made me ponder “What makes news news?” It really isn’t that it is blood and gore. I am at least a little newsworthy just because I am the oldest person (that I know of) to have walked the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. What makes news news is that it is unusual. Yeah, we see bad stuff on the news on TV or the internet. But what makes something news, is that it is the unusual. A journalist I met in Iowa this year said that is what one learns in basic journalism class. I was kinda proud of myself for thinking it up myself. I guess it wasn’t an original idea, though it was original to me. But it is an important idea to remember.
The usual is meeting wonderful people and seeing beautiful sights. The unusual does happen. Something bad could happen on any trail. I could die or be injured. But I have had so many wonderful experiences and met so many wonderful people. I would hope that you and I can remember, often the things we fear, although possible, are not likely to happen. And even if they do, we are not alone.
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.”
I don’t think nothing bad could ever happen to me. Bad stuff happens. But my life and yours are held by God’s promises by what I like to think of as scripture bookends: 23rd Psalm on one end and Romans 8:38 on the other.
“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is possible I may not return from some adventure. It is possible I might not make it home tonight. After all – we do all die sometime, although I would rather not hurry the process.
In ultimate terms, I choose to trust the God who holds me in life and in death. I will try to be mindful of that embrace in wilderness, through raindrops on leaves, sunrises, creepy crawly critters, in relationships with two legged critters, on roads and through towns and cities, in noisy traffic and the silence of night.
And life will be good. Thanks be to God.