(This is the last day of Sarah E. Westfall’s Instagram challenge, #liturgyofthesmallthings. Her invitation is to find reasons for hope in our everyday lives.)
When I am hiking on wooded trails, I often imagine the pioneers who had to forge their own paths as they journeyed into new frontiers. (I especially think of Mary Ingles; when Jim and I first moved to West Virginia, we found a trail named for her. We then read her story in Follow the River – an incredible journey of courage and survival.)
When Jim and I hiked a few days ago, we started early to avoid the heat of the day. We soon discovered that we were the first ones to travel the path up Meek’s Mountain, because we encountered lots of spider webs that had been created during the night! The webs were barely visible in the darkness of the woods, so we often walked through them. We were uncomfortable, not only from having sticky webs on our heads and arms, but also in regretting the damage done to the spiders’ habitat.
About halfway along the trail, we met a friendly, smiling couple who declared, “We cleared the webs for you!” We laughed together as I assured them that Jim and I had done the same. The rest of our hike was much more enjoyable because of this couple who had cleared the way.
Today my hope is found in my gratitude for all the people who have gone before us. I am thankful for all the pioneers who opened new frontiers, made scientific discoveries, created beneficial systems and structures, sacrificed for our freedoms, led to greater understanding and knowledge, and worked for social justice and equality. We can never know all the pioneering people who have quietly cleared the way for us, who have fostered our own success and well-being. But today, we can be thankful and hopeful because of them.
In a timely follow-up to this reflection, yesterday I listened to Krista Tippett’s “An On Being Listening Party – Celebrating 20 Years” of the On Being podcast. There were a number of excerpts of inspirational interviews from the past. In one interview, the question was asked, “Are we being good ancestors?”
What if our sole purpose in life is to clear a path for another’s well-being, to leave a legacy of love, to open new frontiers of understanding and community? My hope today comes from my renewed determination to be a good ancestor – even in some small way – for the generations to come.
Are we being good ancestors? My hope today comes from the way I see others asking this same question.
(Photo by Karen, Valley Park, Hurricane WV)