Along the Trails – Stopping to Say ‘Hello’

“The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life.” -John Eldredge

Recently, my dad and I spent several hours trekking through the Great Smoky Mountains. (Tomorrow, I’ll share my adventure with you in both words and photos.) I kept noticing a common trend – everyone was so friendly, so free, and so engaging. With a wave and a genuine, “How are you?”, we acknowledged each passing hiker on the trails, and more often than not, individuals would pause long enough to engage us in conversation and vice versa.

Back in civilization, or cities made of asphalt, what do people generally do when you pass them on the street? How about when strolling past strangers at the mall? You know the drill. Don’t make eye contact. Look every which way other than directly at them so that they don’t think you’re some weird stalker. Actually, I try to make eye contact with others to see if they will give a hint of a “hello” or at least a head nod. It’s a interesting experiment to see how far someone will go to avoid eye contact.

Nonetheless, people are caught up in their own lives, the busyness of coming and going, keeping appointments, and living the “American dream.” Out on the trails, however, none of those soul-draining tasks matters. Our souls and senses are wide open to the world around us. We are stripped of our own agenda. The passion and freedom return, as we experience God’s magnificent beauty and find nourishment for our hearts. People have time to pause and engage with one another.

“The whole creation is unapologetically wild. God loves it that way.” -John Eldredge

Not only do we discover room to breathe, but we also rekindle our God-given need for adventure. Just like us, our fellow hikers were out on the trail searching. Some or most of them may not have known what they were searching for, but they were on a journey of adventure. They were seeking an escape from the rat race in order to find rest, to exercise, to be still, to spend time with the Creator, to experience a little risk away from modern comforts. Where else can we find such freedom, ruggedness, and stillness?

Who knows? Maybe it will cause us to stop and say “hello” a little more often.

In your life, where do you find people who are willing to stop and say “hello?”

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  • Lincoln Parks

    Chris, this is the lost and forgotten art of actually connecting with people. I am taking a more intentional approach to this. Thanks for sharing this post and reminding us that we need to just simply say hello. Enjoy your hiking.

    • Chris Peek

      Lincoln, I agree this is a lost art. That’s one reason I love hitting trails because you typically find the friendliest people along the way!

  • Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    One of the reasons I love church is people there simply stop to see how you’re doing. I’m sure it’s not the case at all churches, but it definitely is at mine. It gives you a sense of community, even if it’s just a “How’s your family doing?” moment.

    • Chris Peek

      Grayson, you’ve found a great church. From the churches I’ve been to over the years, some but not all of them are like that. Even though we don’t think much of the question, simply asking or having someone say to you “How’s your family doing?” is so meaningful.

  • Michael Wright

    Chris, I find people willing to say hello whenever I say hello first! That is what it takes for “city folk”. I grew up in a rural area and when I brought my wife (then girlfriend) home for the first time, she wondered how I knew so many people from the hand wave from the steering wheel I’d (or they would) give when passing someone on the 2 lane country roads. I laughed when I told he I didn’t know most of them, that it was just a custom greeting on the road. Now, being in Atlanta for 12 years, the customer greeting may just be a one finger salute. Though I’ve only had that done to me once.

    I saw that you went to Clingman’s Dome. I love that area so much. I remember walking up there around 12 years old and just hearing the Appalachian Trail call my name….I don’t get up there enough.

    • Chris Peek

      Michael, you’ve experienced quite a diverse spectrum of life, going from rural living to Atlanta! Not bad if you’ve only received one Atlanta salute in 12 years! :)

      That’s pretty cool that you have been to Clingman’s Dome before. I can’t believe I had previously lived in TN for 25 years and had never hiked it until the other day. I’ll be posting more about it tomorrow! Hopefully, we can hit a trail together one of these days.