Day 73: When You’re Smiling

“When you’re smiling,
The whole world smiles at you,
When you’re laughing,
The sun comes shining through…”

I woke up wet, dirty, and cranky. Everything was filthy. Every item of gear I own had been rained on and then covered in large flecks of dirt. It was overcast again, threatening to rain on my parade, and there wasn’t anything to do but put on my wet clothes, pack away my disgusting gear, and walk onward. To Canada!

The mosquitoes were terrible, as usual, and I couldn’t stop and talk to a nice section hiker because they were eating us both alive. After I passed him, a huge climb blindsided me. What was this evil thing? Who put the trail here? Why would anyone want to hike while wet? 

 I was pissed. I hated everything. I was angry at the hilariously massive climb (1,000 feet, straight up, before coffee?!?), the dampness, the heat, the sun, the shade, life itself! It was horrible.

At the very top of the climb, where I could look far below at the valley I had started the early part of the morning in, I met a man. He was full of happiness. I saw it in the way his walk bounced. 

 He talked to me about my thru hike, asking the normal questions, and asked finally if I was hiking alone. I started tearing up, spilling my whole sad story, and he politely did not notice the wetness gathering in my eyes. He wished me the best on my hike, telling me it was the adventure of a lifetime.

When we parted, I was finally on flat ground. My entire outlook on life changed. The birds were chirping, the ground was soft and delightful to walk on, the sun was drying my shorts. It was a wonderful day. I started bounding forward, deciding to race along the trail and make wonderful time into town. 

 For the rest of the day, past wondrous lakes and boisterous people, I have been pondering the malleable nature of our emotions. Mine change at the drop of a hat. One minute I am filled with rage, the next a delightful peace settles over me. One moment I am brimming with brilliant happiness, the next pure despair.

That man hiking, with his sweet disposition that brightened my day, reminded me that I always have a choice. I can bring happiness or sadness into people’s lives. 

 And with that kind of power, what could I choose?