I watched these colorful wood ducks paddling around a lake yesterday. I could tell they were a tight-knit family. The idea of family triggered a memory of something that happened a few months ago.
I was hiking on a forest trail when I encountered an older man. His gray pallor and labored breathing suggested he didn’t feel well. When I asked him if he needed help, he stopped to rest. He shared that he had undergone heart surgery a few weeks before, and was hiking to regain his strength. He admitted he had overestimated his endurance and walked too far.
Not wanting to leave him alone, I accompanied him the quarter mile back to the parking lot. During our slow-paced return, he began to feel better. He told me about his family and his long career as a veterinarian. After the man drank some water and rested a bit, he insisted he was fine to drive home. I wished him well, and he smiled and thanked me for staying with him.
I never saw the man again. But I knew that for that brief time, we became family. He needed help, and I was there for him. I suspect that if the situation were reversed, he would have helped me despite the fact that we were strangers.
I've heard it said that strangers are simply friends you haven't met yet. I suspect that's true.
And I know, when all is said and done, we're in this together...
(New photos on website Gallery: wandernature.com/new-photos)