In Yosemite, I was at Glacier Point looking for a place to photograph the sunset. There was this group of people around me who was really good at parkour and were doing these amazing flips & really graceful jumps & breakdance moves all around me. I spotted a place I thought I could get to where I'd be out of the way and able to get some good shots, so I started to walk down some smooth boulders in order to get there - and then my foot slipped out from under me and I slid backwards, flipped in mid-air, and my backpack and camera gear went flying. I landed on my knee and it felt pretty bad, I instantly got up and walked around a bit to see if I was all right. A bunch of the people who'd been doing parkour helped me get my bag & my camera gear, and I sat down, tried to recover, and examined my stuff - but the pain started getting sharper in my knee.
One of the guys in the group, Daniel, came over to me and said "Does anything hurt? You're around a group of people who know the body really well," and I told him about my knee. He examined it and told me "If it was broken, you'd know that immediately, and it doesn't feel like anything is torn. Just keep moving it because your brain is trying to send signals below your knee and when it's not moving it causes the pain. But don't worry, we all need to take falls every now and again." So I got up and walked back and forth, and kept doing that every couple of minutes - and it wound up being the perfect spot to watch the sunset. There was a ranger that gave a sunset talk right by where I'd landed, and I learned a lot about the fires going on in Yosemite and the history of fire in the park. I really wouldn't have been able to hear that if I'd been able to make it to the place I'd wanted to be.
After the talk I started walking back to the parking lot and I saw Daniel again, doing flips and having fun with his friends, and I said thanks for helping me - and then he came up to me and said "I'm just so overwhelmed by this adventure called 'life!'" - and I said, "me too!" - and he asked if he could share a prayer with me. And he started in, "Lord, thank you for falls, because they teach us to get up, and they give us the strength to keep on having adventures. And thank you for using this fall to bring us together, because even though we might not ever see each other again, it let us share this moment."
And I was just awestruck by the words - I couldn't think of what to say. I definitely didn't think of falls like that before. But this guy was just so full of positive energy and was having so much fun with his life that it left me speechless. I couldn't think of the right words to say at the moment, but I did say a prayer for him & his friends in the car.
I'd learned earlier in the week that 'Yo Semite' literally means 'We Kill Bears' - but more as an expression meaning 'we take care of ourselves.' We all take falls, and we all need to help each other and take care of each other when it happens. We're put here to love and to share our compassion and our gifts with one another, and there's no greater gift that you can give someone besides your love.
Later in the trip, I was in the Grand Staircase in Utah, and I'd just finished hiking to this beautiful waterfall in the middle of the desert (about 6 miles round trip). The temperature was 95 degrees, and the elevation was 6500 feet - I'm in good shape but I was still a bit tired after it. I was getting my lunch ready when a guy came in a hurry down the trail and went up to this group that was organizing a mountain bike ride, and said "Can someone bring medicine to my wife? She's down the trail and she has allergies and with the heat she's in bad shape. My daughter's with her but she needs help, she can barely speak." The organizers were all either ignoring him or looking around like they couldn't go, they had to be responsible for the people on the ride.
So I spoke up and said "I do distance running. About how far down the trail is she?"
"Just give me the medicine." And as he went to search for it in his car it gave me just the right amount of time to grab 2 bottles of water.
He couldn't find the medicine in her bag so I just strapped the thing to my back and took off, hard, way too hard. About half a mile into it I realized how dry the air was - it was like breathing in chalk and I was weezing loud. I had exercise induced asthma from 7th-9th grade, and I had flashbacks to the horrible coughing spells I used to have, and I was wondered if I would need medical attention. But I kept going, and eventually I hit a spot that was too steep to run, so I opened a bottle and had just enough time to let my throat recover before it was time to run again. And I start back up but it hurts so much to breathe, and I twist my ankle and cry out into the wilderness - but I just tell myself KEEP GOING and I pray that she's around the next turn, the next turn, okay maybe the next one and then finally I see her and she's being helped by several people and I just drop the bag at their feet and say "MEDICINE!"
But luckily she was already okay. There had been a guy furthur up the trail who'd had wilderness rescue training and knew she had heat exhaustion and had gotten her into the stream running nearby to cool her body temperature down. She was speaking in complete sentences again. I was just so happy she was okay...I walked ahead of the group nearly crying, both because of how happy I was and because I was in so much pain (why do I have a moment like that on every trip?). On my way back some people I'd passed up gave me a Gatorade and it made me so happy...and then the husband caught me coming back up the trail, and I got to tell him his wife was all right.
I kept getting placed in the places where I needed to be on this trip. Someone asked me on the way back up what had happened and looked really surprised when they found out I didn't know the people - and I just thought I've been helped so much by people I don't know. I had to do this. I needed to be tested like this, to hurt and yet to push through it knowing I could help someone.
The day before I left on my trip 2 of my friends (Andrew & Samantha) got married, and the verse at their wedding was from 1 Corinthians - to paraphrase, "if I do all these great things, but do not have love, I have nothing." And in looking back on the last 2 trips west I've taken, I've been driven by love both times - the greatest destinations have not been landmarks, they've been the moments shared with my family in Seattle & California. They've been those moments where I've really connected with strangers, too. And so if I've learned anything on these travels, if I need to make any more great changes in my life, I resolve that love will be at the center of this transformation, that love will guide my heart and that I'll live with more love for others in my day to day life.
So now actually comes the part where I have to do it...but I think I'm ready.
Note: I just googled 'parkour los angeles daniel' and found out the guy who helped me was Daniel Ilabaca (Twitter), apparently one of the most respected athletes in the world at parkour and freewalking.