June 7, 2021


Over the past five months, I’ve spent a lot of time out on the trails, walking, clearing my head, building up my strength (physical and mental). Those trails are a place, just steps from the concrete everyday world, that has allowed me to be in silence, alone with my thoughts, and many very approachable wild animals. One day in early August, while out on the trail, both a mama deer and a rather chunky squirrel let me within inches of them without even the slightest hesitation. It felt almost surreal like I was channeling some serious Snow White energy. It was on that day, on that perfect trail, that I started to see the signs. Signs I’ve seen a hundred times before, but never from this perspective, never in this mindset. Signs that led me to see that the secrets to a kinder, happier world may have been right in front of me all along. I just wasn’t looking.

2020 has provided no shortage of plot twists for us all. My world stopped dead in its tracks in the early days of summer when something I didn’t see coming hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. I suddenly had a lot of time to think, and on days when I can’t seem to shut off my brain, I take a couple of hours to get outside and walk. This day, I got so lost in my own thoughts that I was nearly 4 miles from home when I remembered I had to turn around and walk those 4 miles back too. The birds were chirping, and even under the canopy of the thick trees, the sun had a perfect glow. It was one of those moments I didn’t want to end, yet one I knew my feet wouldn’t soon forget had I not turned back. I reluctantly turned around right by my favorite bench (someone carved the word “Mamacita” in it, and it always reminds me of my mom and the countless vacations we spent in Mexico when I would call her Mamacita). Just steps from that bench I love so much, I “saw” the first sign.

Be Courteous

Be Courteous

Ok, so technically, words stenciled onto asphalt are not considered a sign in the traditional sense. But these words spoke to me like they were hanging from a building in flashing fluorescent lights. Be Courteous.

It seems pretty basic, I know. Wasn’t that one of those things we were supposed to learn in Kindergarten? But in the world we live in today, being courteous seems impossible for some. The comments online are outrageous. The posts on social media are even worse. I remember seeing that “sign” and thinking to myself, “if only we could bring the entire internet to this one perfect spot on the most perfect trail to read the most perfectly basic, yet logical sign.” Be Courteous.

Weight Limit

You may be thinking, “what does Maximum Weight Limit have anything to do with being kind?” Well, it occurred to me when I read those words that we all have it; a max capacity. We can only withstand so much before we break. Just like the tiny little Whitney Bridge I was about to cross over, when loaded with too much of one thing, we collapse under the pressure.

That day, it felt like we were all Whitney Bridge, under so much pressure from the world around us that if something didn’t change (and fast), we were all going to crumble. It reminded me to be kinder to myself on the days when an eight-mile walk was the furthest thing imaginable and to be kinder to others who may want to help, but my stubbornness gets in the way. I remember thinking that even though the max capacity of Whitney Bridge may be 2100 pounds, the max capacity of people is much less. We can only take so much negativity, snark, and indifference before we too break.

Share The Trail

Sharing is caring, right? The idea seems to be lost on people today, which is especially concerning considering the whole global pandemic thing. It’s a daily occurrence to see groups of people running or walking on the trail in a perpendicular line, taking up the entire path, oblivious to their overwhelming presence. But as I was thinking about the importance of sharing while on the trail, it occurred to me that a lot of us are not even a little bit concerned with sharing while off the trail either (unless it’s our opinions, which seem to flow freely these days).

Sharing our time, our love, our talents, and our resources can be the simplest way to get us back to a kinder world. This doesn’t mean giving away everything we have or giving beyond what makes us comfortable. But what if we shared what we ARE capable of giving? What if we take a moment each day to share our hearts by telling three people (even via text message or social media) how great they are? What if we shared five minutes of our day to check on a neighbor? How about sharing our talents (baking or building or listening) with someone we care about? What if once a week we posted on social media one thing we have that is up for grabs for anyone who needs it? Think about the JOY we could spread when we Share The Trail.

Slow, Slippery

Have you ever crossed a wooden bridge covered in leaves after it’s rained? Super slippery, right? This day on the trail was perfect and dry, and the leaves hadn’t started falling just yet. But when I saw the sign, I immediately flashed back to the week before when I went rushing down a different trail and a much longer bridge after a storm. The winds had blown a ton of leaves off the trees, and the rain had soaked the wood planks. I learned a precious lesson that day as my feet came up from underneath me and I landed squarely on my butt; Slow, Slippery.

That day I was in a rush. I hurried through that walk because I had some important calls scheduled for later in the day that I wanted more time to prepare for. But what I forgot that day was that I don’t give my full attention when I rush through things. I’ve never believed in multi-tasking because ultimately, every time I try to do three things at once, at least one of them always ends up falling flat (kind of like me on that bridge). Seeing this sign so clearly flashing at me was the perfect reminder to take it slow. After all, why would we want to rush something that brings us joy, that we want to last? Doesn’t taking the Slow, Slippery approach make so much more sense? For someone who tends to be a bit impulsive, this message hit me hard.






Caution: Bend In The Road

As I was rolling up to the last significant stretch in my journey back home, I saw it. But unlike the other four signs before it, this one stopped me dead in my tracks (kind of like that thing back in the early days of summer that made me stop and reflect). Caution: Bend In The Road. The words aren’t printed on the sign, but we all know what the symbol means; go slow, unexpected sharp turns ahead, not a dead-end – just a reason to slow down before the next straightaway. Could any sign on any trail in any universe be more representative of the year we’ve all experienced?

This sign reminded me of why I was on that very trail in the first place; for clarity, for strength, for joy. It reminded me that when life throws you a big fat brick wall, you can either climb it slowly and enjoy the view when you finally get to the top, or you can stop and turn around. As we all have this year, I had come too far in my journey, just to stop and turn around. It reminded me that a bend in the road is nothing more than an opportunity to head in a different direction before we hit the straightaway. Every time I get down about the obstacles this year has sent my way, I try to remember that sign, and I can’t help but be encouraged to think about what is around the next bend and how that straightaway will look. 

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In a world where you can be anything, be a giraffe.