Unexpected Kindness

This is the second holiday in less than five months that’s been saved by a stranger. Christmas could have been ruined, but was saved through humility. Mother’s Day weekend could’ve also failed; it should’ve failed, even though we entered the forest fully prepared. But it wasn’t. It was saved by the unexpected kindness of a stranger.

so much depends

upon

a riverside

fire,

dampened by

rain

and tucked between the

mountains.

After a three-hour drive and a two-hour hike, we arrive. The mist sits heavy, covering the mountaintops and dripping from the trees, and the river roars; it’s a perfect Mother’s Day getaway, just as we had hoped.

Far from civilization, just our family, we set up camp, set stones for a fit pit by the river, and then scavenge for wood. “It will be easy to come by,” we were told before we left, “fallen limbs are everywhere.” And they are. They litter the forest floor and surround our campsite. But so does the mist. We start the fire easily (we brought a few pieces of kindling) but struggle to keep it going – it’s just too wet. “If the sun comes out,” I say, “we should be fine.”

It doesn’t, and that night, a storm extinguishes all hopes of any morning flames.

We need help.

so much depends

upon

a riverside

fire,

surrounded by damp

socks

and packs of

hot coco.

On the day we hiked in we had passed a small farm. They had chickens, a few horses, bright smiles, and, we hoped, dry wood. But first, breakfast.

We unpack the Blueberry muffins and banana bread, sit around a silent fire pit, and dream of boiling water and brewed coffee.

The rain has stopped, but the clouds still linger, covering the mountains with a winter blanket of mist.

Soon after, we head for the small farm. Water sloshes in Zion’s shoes and Josey and I discuss, and both agree, that if they do have wood for sale, it will be pretty pricey, and why not? They own the monopoly and we need coffee.

I began to wonder, if my kids don’t go to college, is it really that bad?

When we stroll up, one middle-aged man is stoking a fire under a small shelter and an elderly woman is standing behind him, her hands held behind her back. They don’t notice us at first, but their teenage son does. He bounds out from the small cabin-like home and greets us warmly.

We ask if they have any wood and he nods that they do.

“Duo shou qian?” I ask, “How much?”

“Se shi quai,” he says again.

“Forty quai?” I say, “Sold!” but he doesn’t understand. I nod and hand him the money.

He lends us a basket, loads me up, and we head back to our campsite with enough wood to last the day, all for the price of a cappuccino and muffin from Starbucks.

so much depends

upon

a riverside

fire,

the late morning  

coffee

and river chilled

fingers.

Judah throws and collects the rocks that line the river, Eden focuses on building Nature Town, and Zion skips back and forth, undecided. The day quietly slips by, and the fire burns. Hot. But by late afternoon, it’s clear we’re going to need more wood, because so much depends upon the fire.

Judah and I head back for another load.

Later that evening, while hotdogs burst and sizzle over the fire, crashing branches sound from down the path. I leap up, hoping to see a deer, yet surprised to see the young man from the farm, a machete in one hand a giant tree limb in the other. He’s bringing us more wood. He chops down another half dozen nearby limbs, cuts them into one-meter lengths, then waves and goes on his way.

In fifteen minutes, he’s doubled our stack of wood, free of charge, and without prompting. And because the dried wood burns so hot, the fire consumes everything.

The soaked branches quickly become pulsing coals.

The wood lasts late into the night and through the next morning.

so much depends

upon

a riverside          

fire,

cool evening

dinners

and Mom’s favorite  

stories.

Kindness creates blessings and is proactive, and it isn’t concerned about rights, rather, what’s right.

And kindness is always right.

It’s easy to be kind to those we like, to those we feel deserve it, but kindness without strings, without requirements, and without expectations can change lives.

Kindness given to those who don’t deserve it can save lives.

Or at the very least, save Mother’s Day Weekend

because

so much depends      

upon

the kindness of a     

stranger.

a riverside   

fire,

a Mother’s Day  

gift,

and hope despite the   

storm.