Day 43: The Kindness of Strangers

There is a fine line between adventure and danger, and it is possible to lose your way. Figuring out where to tread that line is a large part of this fantastical journey, especially because all of us hikers rely on strangers for help.

Strangers, called trail angels, give us ride. Strangers give us food. Strangers head out and stash big piles of food and water at spots on the trail.

As a huge enjoyer of today’s culture of paranoia (I love Criminal Minds, reading about serial killers, and generally imagining worst case scenarios), I live with that stranger danger fear — and wonder always if my judgement is right. Why does this person want to shuttle me to town? Is this food drugged? Why wouldn’t a deranged person poison this water? 

 However, despite these rather morbid imaginings (and I am certainly one to dwell on the horror as a hobby), I do trust people. It is because, in my (highly privileged) experience, strangers have always tried to help me — to go above and beyond.

And that was just what happened today. Teresa and Laurie, the sweetest women in the world from a blog a few days back, texted us and asked if we would like to come stay with them again — they would be happy to make the 45 minute drive to Mojave. 

We all said “YES!”

But before I go on to list the glorious day we had today, let me tell you about these people. Teresa is a wiry, athletic woman who smiles with her molars. She worked for 25 years as a social worker, taking kids away from terribly abusive parents and finding them good homes. She continues the work in her retirement — picking up stray pups and spending hours interviewing people on Craigslist for the perfect homes for them; coaching her friends through buying cars without getting taken in; writing letters from the perspective of her neighbor’s dogs asking for more room and less sun. She is the kind of person who splashes everyone around her with light. 

 Laurie is dark haired, glowing tan, and a vast resources in her huge heart. She has missed work as an accountant to pull to the side of the road and lure in puppies with her own tri tip for lunch, making sure those lost pups had a home. She has a huge family, and her nephews and nieces — aged 8 to 23 — give her such joy. She is the kind of person who gave us solid retirement advice, wishing she had it in her youth — and did it in a way that made me actually resolve to start saving.

All of that was a lead up to this, a short summary of our trail vacation. We first packed our food resupply for the next 500 miles into boxes, then Teresa drove us to the mailman where we spent a long hour hoping our packages got to the right place. Then we came home and they let us run wild — making pancakes (and eating seven each plus salad), swimming in their gorgeous pool, laying in their hammock, making dinner (endless veggie stir fry, more salad, BBQ chicken, buttered bread), eating heaping portions, munching on giant bowls of ice cream, watching Doctor Who all piled into one bed (Ant, Dash, and I). We planned and lounged, and wrote and sat. We felt just like family. 

 I thought I knew kindness last time we where here, but staying here again made it abundantly clear that there is sweetness in this world beyond my imagination. What I do know is I hope to have half of the empathy and love that fills their home in mine.