I wanted a picture of the sign by the road, my final snapshot from my journey to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. It would be a gift for my chicken-loving-friend in Baltimore. Pulling out my camera, a man came over to me.
“Mind if I take a picture of your sign?”
“It’ll cost you some silver,” he said, and a grin spread across his face.
We stood there in the noon heat of that July day and he told me about his life on the island. What an easy manner he had. His description of living there made me wish I could be a part of that community. I started each day of my journey praying for the ‘people in my path’ and this man, while his name was Joe, has been set in my memory as the ‘Chicken Man.’ His lighthearted manner brought me joy that day.
From taking thirteen journeys, I’ve met many interesting people. Our conversations have opened me to new ways of viewing life. Some have been from other countries and have given me a glimpse of their cultural perspective. Others have done things that have helped me as a solo traveler.
This was never more true than when I became acutely ill from altitude sickness in Colorado Springs. I rode the Pike’s Peak Cog Rail train to 11,500 feet, and literally lost it, throwing up and becoming weak with fever and chills. Embarrassed but relieved, I curled into a fetal position with my coat pulled close until we finished the ride. Staggering off the train, I took the soda the gift store clerk offered me and rested until I could make it to my rental car. How I wished my husband was with me to drive back to the guest house.
For the remainder of that day and the next, I barely left my room, sleeping from the extreme tiredness that accompanied my low-grade fever and headache. Barely awake from my in-and-out sleep, I heard a scraping sound just outside my second-floor window. I looked out to the snowy parking lot and saw the owner of the guesthouse scraping the ice from my windshield. He knew I had to leave early the next morning. What an act of kindness.
On another trip, I remember a young college-age girl, Angela, who was working as a wrangler at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. She was one of the summer staff who directed the trail rides. She was quite competent in her horseback riding skills being a competitive barrel racer. I told her I really wanted to ride, but was afraid since I hadn’t been on a horse in over twenty years. She told me she would be right there to help me.
When my huge horse, Tequila, tried to push out in front of the others, Angela took control and coaxed Tequila back into the line. With Angela riding behind me, we were able to talk. She shared with me about her father’s cancer and feeling guilty that she wasn’t back home with him. I was able to encourage this concerned daughter, telling her what I wanted for my sons when I had cancer treatment, assuring her that her father wanted her to go on with her life.
Each day people show up in our path. I’m grateful for the gifts of Joe the Chicken Man, and the owner of the inn, and Angela. Whether we’re far from home or just down the street, if we’re present to each person, we find ways we inspire and help one another. It just takes being open with a pilgrim’s heart.
How about you?
How can you go through your day being present to the people in your path?
In what ways have you experienced people as unexpected gifts?
How can you slow down and be that for the stranger you encounter?