I ain’t particularly good at giving. Or receiving well, for that matter. Or remembering people who help me out. Or functioning like a human being that communicates, you know, functionally. And I wrote you, like… yesterday, or something.
But I walked in to church this Sunday, and all the readings were about giving what little you had; and all the sermon was about giving also; and it is also Veteran’s Day… and I figured it was about time to write this post.
Folks will occasionally come up and ask how I fund this hike. Usually, they hesitatingly ask if I’m independently wealthy, which immediately translates as it funnels through my little ear-y cochlear spiral, to: “Where’d ya get yer money fromme, ya rich travellin’ bastarde.”
This is very good. I will tell you, alright:
People gave it to me.
I had $1600 in the bank when I started out at Flagg Mountain, AL, on June 12th, 2017, saved up from my wee teachery stipend. The plan was I’d have to stop and work; but I figured I might as well get walking, and stop to find work when I needed to.
My family added to that when they funded my way through college and let me out debt-free. (This is honestly the biggest. That, and the fact that I don’t currently have other people to support.)
Trail angels add things when they feed me, or house me on the trail, or let me shower, or do laundry, or ferry me to the grocery store so I can save on groceries. (Beans, rice, mashed taters, soup mix, tuna packets, cheese, and pasta sides, awww yiss.)
Other thru-hikers added to that when we share pizzas, or parts of snickers bars; and it helps my soul.
Day/weekend hikers added to that when they gave me their extra freeze-dried meals, or put their leftovers in hiker boxes, or gave encouragement.
My mom added to that when she sent me a 1lb bag of jerky, tons of granola bars, and miso soup mix. One of my sisters added to that when she and my brother-in-law let me stay for free in their spare room all winter.
Friends added to that when they bought pairs of shoes to replace my awful ragged ones; or call out of the blue to help my soul; or knit warm, wonderful, raven-decorated mittens so my fingers don’t freeze; or yell at me and take the dinner bill; or ask if I need vitally important pieces of gear, and then throw them at my face.
Folks along the trail add to that when they say things like, “What, eh, you’ve stopped because you need work? Come work in my lab. I’ve got some money in my grant I can pay ya from,” Or, “What, eh, you’re in town for a few and looking to earn some while you’re here? Come dishwash for me. Just lemme know when you’re gonna leave.”
(That second one is my “now” job.)
There’s a lot more to list; and I’m kind of distracted because there’s a four-year-old measuring my arm and talking about tallness right next to my ears. Which is another blessing. She belongs to the couple I’m with right now, whom I asked about rent options in the area for a couple of weeks, as I work on learning GIS researchy science things at the lab that a geology professor is letting me crash. They (this is the seventeen-kid-couple who actually don’t have seventeen kids, remember) listened to me ask, and discussed, and came back and said, “merh, save your money.”
So here we are. You, me. Being magically helped by others. Trying to be better at helping.
I guess what I mean is,
There’s a lot of mad people on the news right now; and on our social media, etc, etc. But I just got a random call from a trail friend, who graduated from high school a year and a half ago, walked part of the Appalachian Trail last year, and just finished long-boarding/walking/hitchiking across America. He is now working at a horse farm that he had worked at briefly on part of his trip, which offered him a job for this winter.
Halfway through our conversation, he laughed and said, This trip made me into such a patriot. I love our country.
Guys, it is incredible. It’s spectacular, and beautiful, and awe-inspiring… And when it gets down to it, coming from a couple of folks whose lives consist of travelling with huge packs across this land… The people are also pretty wonderful.
Everywhere. Always. Regardless of their presumptions, fears, or political affiliations, there are folks across all of our country who look at strangers, and give them a ride, or feed them, or take them into their homes, or simply meet you as a human to talk, and then your soul is well.
This is how we can hike.