One year ago today I first spoke with Rue McKenrick on the phone. We had been in communication via Instagram for 3 weeks, but had not yet spoken. During that time period I had coached him through a back injury and learned a little more about him and his journey. Through our messaging I offered my assistance and we decided to speak on the phone when he was available.
One year ago today I had already had an emotionally draining day. I had an appointment in the morning that brought up old traumatic events and I was exhausted from going over all of it again. As a single mother moments of peace and respite from it all are few, and that day had provided none. My appointment in the morning, my usual Monday chores, then picking up my children and heading right off to coach gymnastics packed it full. When my phone rang that evening and I saw an Oregon number I knew who was calling, but I did not have the courage or energy to pick up the call. I recall feeling guilty, knowing he might not be able to reach me anytime soon again based on cell-phone service, but I just did not have the ability to pull myself together. About 20 minutes later my phone rang again, same number, and at that point I knew I needed to answer. I remember taking a deep breath and saying hello. I was nervous, I was excited, and I was exhausted. Within a few minutes all of those feelings faded and the conversation flowed as if we had been friends for years.
I sit here 1 year later on my couch in my comfortable APT sweatshirt contemplating the growth and journey of not only this community, but myself. When I started with Rue in this project we were a very small community, 700-800 followers on Facebook, and no other social media accounts other than his personal Instagram. Here we are now with social media accounts for our trail organization, almost 3,000 followers on Facebook and growing daily on Instagram. We have a beautiful logo, merchandise, and are now an official Oregon based organization. This community has carried Rue through a pandemic, major injuries, and stolen gear. Rue and I ask nothing more than for support and love, and daily I watch this community provide that to him, and in turn myself. In a year that has physically driven us apart and brought forth social injustices, this beautiful community has drawn closer and continued to be supportive, kind, and compassionate. Coordinating this project this past year has drawn my own family closer and connected me when I otherwise would have been more isolated. I thank Rue for the opportunity and all of you for welcoming me.