Check out this short film by REI and then read on. I think you’ll enjoy this story.
I love this story of Ponytail Paul! And REI did a great job telling it. In the beginning of the film, Ponytail Paul mentions how the Appalachian Trail is a legendary journey. It is 2,186 miles of pure wilderness. If you want to thru-hike it, expect that it’s going to take months! The idea of attempting such a feat is a bit daunting and extremely attractive! It is not lost on me though, that the experience one seeks on this trail is far more than a walk in the woods. It is a journey for redemption, for breakthrough, for solitude and silence, for grand adventure…for clarity. Far too often though, the burden that one carries on their backs keeps them from finishing their legendary journey.
The idea that there is this “trail angel” out there that takes it upon himself to carry some of that load for them has got to be pretty encouraging. It allows the traveler the ability to pack lighter and experience the fullness and wonder that this odyssey has to offer.
This past summer, our family hiked Mt. Bailey in beautiful southern Oregon. One of the reasons we settled on Mt. Bailey was because it was difficult enough to offer a challenge and a sense of danger for our younger boys but it was doable. During the first half of our climb to the barren and rocky peak, Ezra (who had just turned 8yrs old) was becoming increasingly discouraged. It wasn’t so much by the challenge of the mountain, but by the load he was carrying on his back during a particularly steep section. It was too much for him to bear alone. We stopped and rearranged the packs. Rebekah and I distributed some of the weight Ez was carrying between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong here, we only took some of the weight off.
I don’t think our character is forged on strolls through the meadow, but during the strain of overcoming the arduous path.
So, we allowed him to continue carrying his pack, but now it was just a bit more manageable. The burden of just a few pounds had distracted him from experiencing the journey in all of its fullness. What happened next was pretty cool. He started running ahead, hiding behind trees, and jumping off boulders. His adventurous spirit had returned and he was determined to conquer that mountain.
He conquered the mountain that day, but more than that, I think he gained a mindset that he was able to overcome something that was very challenging.
He just needed a trail angel to carry a bit of his burden so he could get back on track.
You can do that…you can be that “trail angel” for someone who is traveling through this legendary journey called life. They don’t need you to carry everything. That wouldn’t be healthy or helpful in the long run. But you can be one who helps them shed just a few pounds of their burden and get them back on track, reenergized to tackle whatever difficult adventures lay ahead. And who knows, maybe in the process of carrying someone else’s burden, you will find someone to carry yours as well.