15 April 2019 - Sylva, North Carolina
I was supposed to be hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park today - right now! - along part of the Appalachian Trail, to Mount Le Conte, along the Rainbow Falls Trail and eventually out of the park and into Gatlinburg. But I’m not. I got up at 5 a.m. The person who agreed to get up early and take me up to Newfound Gap, The Rev. Pattie Curtis, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sylva, North Carolina, picked me up at 6 a.m. and we were on our way. Then I got a text from Jim Rugh, the man from Tennessee who was going to meet me at Newfound Gap and hike with me today. He couldn’t get there because the road in the park was closed, due to high winds blowing down trees. I called Jim. Find out if the road is also closed on your side of the park, he said. It was… for the same reason. Would I be willing to push back my schedule one day, Jim asked? He was willing to hike with me tomorrow. Pattie was willing to bring me back up to Newfound Gap tomorrow. Well? Pattie turned the car around and we headed back to Sylva. I suddenly had another rest day, one for which I had not planned. I felt very disappointed. In the car ride back, Pattie and I talked about concepts like flexibility, patience, resilience, and letting go. She told me of a parishioner at St. John’s who says, “There is the day you plan and the day you get!” Many times, they are not the same thing. Today is one of those days for me. I guess this day will be more about writing, working on some of the logistics for the days ahead, touring downtown Sylva, and being thankful for people like Jim and Pattie, who are willing to be flexible and offer gracious hospitality so that I can do today’s hike tomorrow. Oh, yes… another thing. I’ll also be praying that the Park Service employees get the road cleared today!
There is much more in our lives that we cannot control, compared to the part that we can. I have control over how I respond to the things that happen in my life. Do I get reactive? Do I acknowledge my feelings and move through them, or let them leak out sideways in ways that might damage the connection I have with another person? Can I “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), as Paul challenges us to do? Can I keep things in perspective and realize that the weather is definitely not under my control, and that some events like this were bound to happen in a walk of 8-1/2 months’ duration? These are the types of things over which I have some control. There are so many other things - the weather, how others see me or react to me, what happens in the economy, road closures, when and how I will die, etc. - over which I have no control.
My thoughts turn to the children that I am raising money for on this walk, and the organizations that serve them. They did not have control over whether their parents were abusive or if they lived in a country going through civil war or drought or some other disaster, causing them to flee. They did not choose the part of world in which they were born or whether there was access to clean water, adequate health care, or equal access to education if they happened to be female.
You and I do not have control over many things. But we can choose to respect the dignity of every human being, and faithfully love and serve Christ by serving our brothers and sisters who live close by as well as those who live far away. There’s the day you plan and the day you get. But even with the day you get, you are given plenty of opportunities to be an agent of Christ’s light, love, and healing in the world.
Please help a child have a bright future today by visiting the "Support Us" page and clicking on “DONATE.” (Don’t try to enter a decimal or cents in your donation. Just put in a whole number.) And please consider giving monthly, during the duration of my walk (though November). That would be a huge help to our fundraising goals!
And while you are at it, offer a prayer that US 441 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be cleared of all trees today. And join me in offering a prayer of thanks for all those who had the vision to set aside national parks for future generations to enjoy, as well as for those who contribute to the ongoing stewardship of our public lands.