It's story time.
The other day, I was in line at the gas station, and I saw someone wash a stranger's windshield after he'd cleaned his own. That simple random act of kindness resonated with me and reminded me about my amazing time with my yellow Labrador retriever, Jessie in 2011-2013.
Most of you don't know this about me, but my wife and I should have been at the World Trade Center on 9/11, but I happened to oversleep by a mere 15 minutes, delaying our commute just enough for us to miss the planes hitting the buildings.
During the years after 9/11, I struggled to understand more about my purpose, and I decided to take an active role to educate and encourage random acts of kindness. In that effort, I created Walk4Good, where I endeavored to hike sections of the Appalachian Trail and receive pledges from strangers for each mile I hiked. Basically, I wanted people to pledge a single act of kindness in return for my hiking a mile. No money was needed. It was about me, and my dog, inspiring people to look at how they could be kinder in their own daily lives.
At the time, we lived in New York, on the banks of the Hudson River in Piermont, not coincidentally where my third novel, A Recipe for Love, is set. My kindness idea took hold and began to spread throughout the community. One of the local high schools asked Jessie and me to visit. We didn't just stop by to talk about kindness, we threw an ice cream party for the entire high school! In return, we asked the students to pledge an act of kindness.
Of course, all the students fell in love with my beautiful and gentle Jessie, and together, we were able to talk about how challenging it is to hike the Appalachian Trail, carrying everything we need to survive on our backs. It helped remind students to be thankful for the simple things like a warm house, food, a roof over their heads, a comfortable mattress, and choose not to take those blessings for granted.
So far, Jessie and I have hiked over 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail, receiving an equal number of pledges. The experiences on the trail helped me write my second novel, In the Direction of the Sun, too.
We had to step away from hiking in 2013 when our lovely home on the Hudson River was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. I literally had to come off the trail to return home to prepare for the storm. In hindsight, I don't think it was a coincidence that the hurricane ravaged our home when it did. Because we were safe, and all the materials possessions lost could be replaced. Hiking alone with so few creature-comforts taught me that.
Now, we're fully recovered and settled back in Connecticut, where we are both originally from, and I remain thankful each and every day for all the blessings of our life.