The entrance to the trail looked inviting. The sun shone bright, casting long shadows through lush pine trees onto the sandy ground below. The path ahead seemed good for walking in sturdy sneakers. All appeared perfect for a long morning hike. Before I set out, I noticed only one other car in the wooded parking lot which caused my heart to stir. But the summer sun beckoned me forward so I ventured out into the morning light. I walked silently for quite awhile, appreciating the sheer beauty of my surroundings. After some time though, I noticed that my heart had begun to beat rapidly. I kept thinking about that single car in the parking lot and wondering, “is there danger ahead?” I tried to put this negative thought out of my mind considering the safety of my location on Cape Cod, but it was too late – I had already convinced myself that being out on the trail was a bad idea. I immediately turned around and swiftly walked back the way I came. Throughout the rest of the day and into the next, I kept wondering what had happened to cause me to become so fearful in the midst of such beauty?
Memories of special family moments on Cape Cod flood my mind with gratitude every time I drive over the familiar Bourne Bridge. On a recent July weekend my Dad and I set out to accomplish a few chores before enjoying dinner at a nearby harbor restaurant. Like most parents, Dad wanted some assistance with his computer. As we combed through his online address book, a name popped up which I didn’t recognize. Questioning him I said, “Who is this person?” He smiled, paused, then proceeded to tell me about the woman with the curious name. “She is the coordinator of the cooking program at the Noah Shelter in Hyannis. Mom cooked meals for the clients twice a month and we dropped the food off together at this gal’s home.” His response caught me off guard and brought big tears to my eyes as I thought about my loving Mom preparing delicious dishes for folks in need.
It was good to spend time talking quietly with Dad about Mom’s positive outlook on life. Her faith was a key ingredient to living a calm, optimistic “others centered” life which propelled her happily forward each day – even during the years in which she battled terminal cancer. It was also a good reminder that Mom did not live in fear. I think it was due to her deep love of our Lord! God’s love conquers every fear and breaks the power of evil in our midst. Mom knew this, which is why she always prioritized her relationship with Him – even when she was unwell.
When I walk my little dog Hannah, I like to listen to interesting lectures, podcasts and prayers. The other day, as I was slowly returning from a long walk, deeply focused on the podcast playing in my ears, I caught sight of an elderly neighbor. This gentleman lost his wife several years ago and he often sits quietly in his opened garage to watch the activity go by each day. He is a veteran, father and local townsman whom I’ve admired for years for his kindness. I didn’t really feel like stopping, I was experiencing a lot of back pain and just wanted to get home to my heating pad but something made me walk up his driveway. Hannah ran straight up to him as if he was a familiar face and wagged her tail happily when he pet her. He smiled and proceeded to chat with me for quite awhile. We spoke about his wife and memories of their lives together in Holliston. All the while, Hannah kept coming over to him in gentle ways, letting him know that he mattered. I looked around his garage and could see evidence of a life well lived – photos, awards and memorabilia from his military days. His life is different now – but he still smiles and seems to be grateful for his little piece of paradise in our small town. As I turned to leave, I promised to visit again. I also realized that I had forgotten all about the pain in my back for just a few minutes. What a gift it is to give yourself to others – Mom was right.
A friend once shared that fear is an absence of the good. Since God is all good – fear must be an absence of God. I thought this definition seemed accurate because whenever I am fearful, I notice that it’s when I forget to pray or trust in Him. My Mom demonstrated Divine trust and looked at life with eyes of faith when she cooked for friends in need during her trial with cancer. My elderly neighbor also looks at life with optimism as he is content allowing others to come to him in the golden years of his life. He could look at his situation with negativity but instead, he blesses all of us who have a chance to interact with him.
Thinking back to my Cape Cod hike, I resolved not give in to fear the next time I have a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature on my own. Perhaps my painful back contributed to my fearful attitude but that’s no excuse. Pope Benedict XVI helped me to realize that God is always looking out for us. He sees us! He shared these beautiful thoughts on Psalm 23, “He (God) tends them, looks after them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to guarantee their well-being and enable them to live a peaceful life. They can lack nothing as long as the shepherd is with them. Those who walk with the Lord even in the dark valleys of suffering, doubt and all the human problems, feel safe.” We need live with eyes of faith – seeing, trusting and believing that all will be well.
Psalm 23, A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.