A few days after the big storm, I took a walk on the snow-covered path of the Sunrise Carriage Trail in my little city of Charleston, West Virginia, enjoying the icicles dripping and making tracks in the snow.
As I was making my way carefully back down the trail, a familiar feeling overcame me. I’ve had this feeling again and again as I’ve walked this trail but it often sneaks up on me and suddenly I am overwhelmed by it. Gratitude. It’s not just gratitude in general, but it’s a very specific gratitude for this exact trail in this exact place. The Carriage Trail has been a source of great healing and growth in my life, and each time I climb this hill, I am aware of that.
Years ago when I was feeling this sense of gratitude, I ran into a friend on the trail and told her my feelings and how and I wished I had someone to thank (besides God) for this space that I consider sacred. She told me the story of a man she knew named Kenny who works for the city and how he lovingly and passionately cares for this trail. I put the thought of him in my pocket to say thank you to when these feelings of gratitude come.
Soon after that I read an article about a couple named Celeste and Dick Ayre who created a trust before they died more than two decades ago to care for this trail. I wondered what compelled them to give much of their estate to a winding path not even a mile long. I suspect they somehow knew that lives would be gently transformed as people climbed this little patch of forest in the middle of town.
Is there any way they could have seen me one day sprawled out on one of the benches journaling, meditating, listening to the birds sing and watching the squirrels rush by? Could they predict that I would walk up this path during some of my darkest moments and with each step feel hope rising in me?
How many times do we touch someone’s life and not even know it? How often does our kindness, our generosity, our creativity, our following the directives of the Divine plant seeds in someone else’s soul even though we may never see those seeds grow?
I have a great drawing by artist Seth Pitt at the foot of my bed. It’s a figure standing on the edge of a mountain blowing dandelion fluff over a cliff. If you look closely, you see that each seed is a tiny heart. I imagine myself being that figure, blowing seeds of love into the world, not knowing which will grow and which will wither, which will take root quickly and which will take years to grow. All I know is I must continue to blow seeds into the world and trust God to take care of the details.
I want you to know that your actions matter, that you make a difference, that someone out there tells a story of how his or her life was transformed and your name is in it.
And if you know Kenny Williams, the family of Celeste and Dick Ayre, or anyone who is part of the heart and soul of this trail, I would ask that you pass this along to them. I would like them to know that they are a part of who I am, even though I’ve never met them. They have passed on their legacy to me and so many other people.
The Divyavadana text states, “What we have done will not be lost to all eternity. Everything ripens and becomes fruit in its own hour.” I know this because I have been the fruit that has ripened, and I have been the one planting the fruit for others. Haven’t we all?
I pray that you will take time in your life to pause and feel gratitude for every seed you have planted and every seed that has been planted in you. Our love connects us all.