These past few days have shown lines of division I haven’t seen in my lifetime and I want to take this opportunity to pass along 6 stories from very different places and very different people. I want you to realize that even though I did not share the same beliefs with all these people they still showed me kindness. It’s the universal language and I challenge you to do the same.
Pine Grove, PA
It was extremely cold with a light fog and I was nearly out of food. In other words I was worn down. It was near Easter Sunday and I missed my family and friends. I crossed Waggoners Gap and a lady in a red pickup truck pulled over to ask me if I needed a ride into town. I nearly said “no” as I was not planning on going into Pine Grove but decided to take the kindness. On the drive in she offered to take me to her church get together where she said they would have muffins, pancakes and coffee. I was sold. I arrived to everyone dressed up for a small church service while I stood there smelling awful but against all odds I was embraced. I was not a member of their religion, from their region, I talked differently and thought differently but nonetheless they did not care. They wouldn’t even let me do my own dishes and were even respecting towards my desire to get back to the trail at a reasonable time that day. A lady volunteered to leave the service early and give me a ride. On my way out the door another older lady said she loved what I was doing and handed me $20.
I arrived at Rockfish Gap and with the cars flying by I was extremely worried about getting into Waynesboro to pick up my resupply package. It took me a few minutes to detour and get across the overpass and back down to the road but when I did there was a car waiting. I reluctantly opened the door and was greeted with a warm smile radiating from a lady offering to take me into town. I threw myself in the car, recognizing the overwhelming stench and we began the journey of finding the town post office. After countless wrong turns and an old location showing up on my maps, I was beginning to stress. I hate making people drive extra miles as I do not want them to feel I am taking their time for granted. But the lady casually said, “Don’t worry, we will find it.” This let me let go of the stress and I began to feel welcomed into this town. We did find that post office and what I thought would be only a ride into town turned into so much more. I grabbed my package as she drove away I quickly did my town chores. I eventually ended up at the YMCA to take them up on their free shower offer and guess who was waiting for me, the same lady that gave me the ride into town. She offered to take me to her home in Crozet (10 miles away) and feed me in the morning before taking me back to the trail. We had only met and talked for 10 minutes before she was willing to open up her home to me.
I had been traveling over snow for the better part of 2 weeks and 500 miles. I was tired and my feet were aching. Then out of nowhere someone reached out and offered to connect me with someone in Truckee, CA (just off the trail). I took up the offer thinking little of it. Before I knew it I was receiving a ride down from Donner Pass by an extremely nice couple I had never met. They assisted in my resupply, fed me pizza for lunch, a steak dinner, and a full breakfast in the morning. These people I had never met and spent less than 24 hours with offered and gave me everything I could have asked for. I would now call them friends.
There is an awful road walk that heads into Anaconda and during my time on this dangerous road it rained and hailed on me relentlessly. I had to push through the elements in order to reach the post office in time. When I finally did I was too tired, wet, and hungry to continue hiking the road that led out of town. I walked into a bar only to learn they did not offer the one thing I wanted most: food. Anaconda really only has a couple restaurants in the entire spread out town and I wasn’t about to walk a couple extra miles for something. I met two girls in the bar and they offered to get me a burger from the restaurant one worked at. After my burger they extended their generosity by opening up their home, allowing me to shower, and sleep in a bed. I was hairy, smelly and dirty but these people looked past all that and offered kindness.
Steamboat Springs, CO
The first town I went through is a resort town and well out of my budget to get a hotel in. I either had to camp in the subfreezing temperatures near the lake or head back out of town. But a former hiker with a small modest apartment and an understanding roommate offered to open up his house and allow me to stay on the pull out couch. It didn’t end here as he brought me food home from the restaurant he worked at.
This town was like none I had ever been to. On the road walk into town I was chased by loose dogs repeatedly. This town had seen better days. Upon reaching the center of town and walking down the cracked street a young man called me over. It was immediately apparent he did not have much. He handed me a plastic bag with a sandwich and fruit in it and told me I much take it. This man had just given me his lunch. I protested and asked him what he would eat and he had no answer. He would not let me leave without it. This man would not eat lunch because he thought I needed it more than him. He was willing to give me everything he had to give.
All I want to point out is that these 6 places are extremely different yet still contain extremely nice people. Let us all focus on the fact that our country is full of a lot more than is shown in the media. We have to embrace the fact that there is more good out there than we can even imagine. Let it bring us all together no matter our beliefs. These people didn’t care what I believed and still showed me kindness. If there is one thing I can pass along is that a little kindness goes a long way. Be one of these stories for someone you meet.