A mountain path does not afford invisibility. When two people pass, shuffling between the rocks and the sky, you are seen. At that point, two people who have perhaps never met before, or will never meet again, are brought together.
We were hiking in the mountains above a small village when two paths crossed. As we rounded the corner in the trail, an elderly man came into view. It was not only the mud boots and the cane that identified him as a local, but by the way he picked his way down the rocks and gullies. He knew this mountain. Because we had to pass, we stopped and chatted. He told of what lay ahead, other trails, and places of interest. He talked of his village below, his farm, and his family. Seamlessly he transitioned between his cattle and horses to the loss of his wife. There was no pause. He spoke honestly and of what he faced. The two of us stood on the side of the mountain, and he shared the loss he feels now that his wife is gone.
She was too young.
We got along so well together.
Everyone got along well with her.
I live with my two sons.
She got a really bad cold a couple years ago and we took her to the doctor’s.
We thought it might be pneumonia, but they said it couldn’t be.
Then she just died.
It is hard.
I was from a different country, a different culture, a different language. He had grown up tending animals and growing crops in the mountains. I had grown up alongside the lakes of northern Minnesota. He had two grown sons and had passed on his farming to his boys. I was chasing my wife and our three little kids up the mountain, trying to keep them from falling off the edge. Our orbits had collided, not because of our shared interests, vocations, or responsibilities, but because of geography.
You cannot pass someone on a mountain path without acknowledging their existence. And in that pause, that brief moment of time, there just might be a life that opens up before you. You might be the listening ear for a hurting soul.