Hiking this time of year has its rewards and its perils.
I was reminded of this by my older son at Christmas when there was some discussion of a trip to a trail at the Columbia River Gorge.
“Wait…didn’t we try that, like, a couple years ago, and the trail was just a sheet of ice?” he asked.
Why yes, I told him, and I recall falling hard on that ice. Perhaps the rewards don’t merit the risks, and so it was decided that hiking will wait for spring.
This is the kind of year 2020 has been for all of us, one that inspires caution—a time when it’s better to be careful than confident. Some things are better off postponed until more favorable times arrive.
This coming year will likely encourage the same kind of reserve in those of us who are paying attention. Can we take a risk and profit? Maybe. Should we play it safe anyway? We likely will.
There is still so much unknown about the current calamities. When will COVID vaccines be available to enough of us to make our nation safe? How quickly can our incoming administration repair much of the damage done to our economy and international standing after the outgoing administration is gone? When can we finally send our kids back to school in person?
The thing about doubt is that it can be a really good thing—if we embrace the discomfort of it. When we own our doubt, a sense of surrender emerges with a feeling of deep relief. It is not up to each of us to know all of the answers. When we hike into the wilderness of doubt with a spirit of openness, the possibilities are so much greater than we can imagine. When we are wise enough to bring along the good company of kind people, we can meet the challenges of just about anything the trail presents.
Some things we learned for sure after this year of pain and loss are that kindness, love, and service are the real heroics of humanity. The world is improved by those who give of themselves to the point of sacrifice. Aggression and domination are the weapons of the spiritually weak; these are the roughly-honed tools of the uninspired mind. Good things come from goodness. It can be no other way. Loving kindness is the compass for our lives that points us in the right direction every time.
As we face 2021 with trepidation, we must return again and again to what is true—which is love. We must not seek those who claim to be rescuers.
Rather, we must embrace uncertainty and allow it to make better solutions possible.