Mountains outside of San Juan de la Maguana, DR

A few weekends ago my husband and I picked up a hitchhiker. He was standing near an Appalachian Trail crossing, walking polls, pack, looking tired. He needed a ride to Roanoke where he believed he could find a motel, dinner and a bus station to get a ticket home to Vermont.

He was leaving the trail and needed help getting home.

We know of a man who lives in Damascus Virginia who set up a grill and a cooler of beer for thru-hikers this spring. A random party trail side where all were invited to sit, relax and enjoy some of the comforts of a summer evening at home.

My husband has long delighted in stories of trail magic. Of hikers being provided for, served and taken care of by strangers. Acts of kindness and hospitality that make the 5-6 month trip possible.

I spent the last week in the Dominican Republic, a country not lacking in natural beauty. While the mountains were indeed spectacular, it was the warmth and kindness of the people I will never forget. I do not know of a time or place where I have ever felt such gracious hospitality from strangers.

Trail Magic.

Hospitality.

Doing unto others.

The Gospel of Matthew says to love your neighbor as yourself. But who is your neighbor?

The Dominicans I met believed I was their neighbor, white skin notwithstanding. The thru-hikers believed the young man trail side with the cooler of snacks was their neighbor, brother perhaps. The elderly woman in front of you at the grocery store is your neighbor. The homeless man who asks for change downtown is your neighbor. The politician who makes you so angry you must turn off the TV is your neighbor. The family member who takes and takes and never gives is your neighbor. The young boy who litters your favorite fishing spot or makes too much noise on his floating island while you try to quietly float the New River is also your neighbor.

What if we all lived with these daily goals of service in mind? Could you change your relationships? Your block? Your office? Your town?

I think so. I hope so.