Sharing and Helping
In between the beautiful bits, the trail is hard. It can be hot, wet, demoralising, lonely, fearsome, and it sometimes feels unfair.
In fact, it’s just when it feels unfair – when I start anthropomorphising rocks, roots, or gradients, heaping curses on them or seeking to report them to higher authorities – that it’s time to stop, take a break, or inhale some confectionery.
Other hikers face similar tribulations. This is surely one of the reasons that the trail occasions such acts of kindness among those traveling it.
I have received or witnessed such selfless generosity on the trail that it’s hard to remember it all. The good folks at the Inn at Ragged Edge took me in having never met me.
A couple of thru-hikers drove 50 miles out of their way to drop me at a remote trailhead. In Vermont (where I am now), I even had a hiker offer me her sleeping bag, with alacrity, in a cold spell when I mentioned that I’d sent mine home.
I’ve seen tired hikers carry weight for others who are struggling, hikers part with food or water that they’ve lugged up mountains because others are in need, and hikers pass forward gear – tent pegs, raincoats, cell phones – reuniting items with owners.
Kindness happens all around the world every day of course. But what makes the trail instances remarkable is that the samaritans and benefactors are connected only through their shared hardship. (In the case of trail angels, who I mentioned in a previous post, even this connection is absent.)
For me, this is profoundly uplifting. In modern life, we are often confined to bubbles where we interact instrumentally with others, doing things for each other out of compulsion or duty.
Often these others are similar to us in some salient way – kin, co-workers, friends. The trail reminds me that goodness towards others can overflow these bounds.
When we go through tough times together, our differences can fall away and the true bonds that unite us – that we are all brothers and sisters making our way together day by day – shine through.
It is this very spirit that I think is present in the work ZANE does. There are people in Zimbabwe who have for years and through no fault of their own, suffered great hardship – working quietly with them are the wonderful people of ZANE – the donors who give the money, the teams around the world who keep the whole effort moving forward and then the very special teams on the ground in Zim who bring comfort and relief to each individual in need.
That’s enough to make me want to walk 30 miles through the rain!
It’s raining a lot again. I got off the trail soaked at Woodstock, Vermont, mile 1,726 and the first person to stop and offer me a lift was Charlotte, the proprietor of the Ardmore Inn. She sheltered and fed me for the night.
Thanks Charlotte – a true trail angel who took me in as a complete stranger and listened to my tales, even engaging with the ZANE story.
The Ardmore is beautiful and comfortable – visit it if you’re ever in Woodstock, Vermont – www.ardmoreinn.com
If you would like to join in this wonderful work, please follow the link below.