This month I enjoyed hiking with friends in the Rocky Mountains near Estes Park. As hiking “veterans,” sometimes we devise ways to entertain ourselves on the long hikes back to the trail head. For example, once we challenged each other to name movies or books beginning with every letter of the alphabet.
During one hike this year, we overheard some young women talking about mathematics as they passed us on the trail. At least I think it was mathematics. The language was above my head! It occurred to me that it would be fun to create fictitious snatches of conversation that would turn other hikers’ heads. We laughed as we came up with some provocative statements:
“I was so relieved they didn’t look in the trunk!”
“Roadkill doesn’t taste that bad if you use enough seasonings.”
“We got the head buried, but then we didn’t know what to do with the body.”
“I told him, if you’re going to shoot me, shoot me!”
(You can see the direction our ideas were taking.)
It was fun to imagine the comments that hikers would make after passing us on the trail. It was pretty entertaining.
This is what passes for “extreme” sports in my set.
We only managed to use one “snatch” on other hikers without laughing and giving away the game. I saw some hikers approaching and said, “…so what do I do after you’ve won the lottery and bought the house, gone on all the trips you can think of? I’m not sure what to do next.”
We form impressions of people based on brief interactions, careless remarks, or a comment on Facebook or Twitter. Those impressions may or may not be accurate. I can’t count the number of times I have had to alter my opinion of someone because I got to know them better.
I got to thinking about “snatches” in our lives, slices of our speech or behavior that people witness without knowing us otherwise. Interactions with cashiers or waiters or strangers on a neighboring campsite. What kind of impressions do we make?
I don’t think we have to pepper our conversation with the gospel message or Bible verses in every other sentence in order to offer the love of Jesus to the world. We can be living lights of love and encouragement in myriad ways, participating in the reign of God by our generosity. Of course we can always share the basis for our hope when the occasion arises.
We don’t have to be profound to have an impact. Sometimes a well-timed question seems best to me:
“Huh. I wonder how it felt to be on the receiving end…”
“How is that (attitude, story, perspective) workin’ for you?”
“So what do you think?”
I wonder whom I will meet along the “trail” today. Happy hiking!
An even preachier version of this appeared in the Spencer Daily Reporter of August 4, 2017.