Stranger Danger

Feb. 22, 2022

By Rue McKenrick

I wonder if I looked desperate. There was a long line formed behind me as I checked out my groceries. I was purchasing my resupply for the next section of The APT. I was only a month into the 12,000 Mike trek and I was already getting tight on cash. I had been advised to just go for it. I remember saying aloud to a friend, “I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough gear, I don’t have “Just go.” “If you attempt this thing no one is going to let you fall.” ” Go and the money and the gear will come when People find out what you are all about.” So I did. I wasn’t footloose and free though. The nagging questions always came wanting answers of how I was going to hike and create the Conference at the same time. 

The  Cashier said $52.60. I reached for my debit card and then ran it through the machine. “Sir it says it’s declined,” the Cashier said flatly. I panicked, there has to be enough money in the account, I told myself. No way! I can’t be that broke. I told the cashier there must be some kind of mistake and said I would resolve it quickly. She agreed and I stepped out of lone to check my online banking. I was sweating at this point and there was a whole line of unimpressed people waiting. The cashier began to help the next customer as I fumbled with my phone and walked away from the register.

There has got to be money. 

Anxiety was making my skin crawl. I started running through every horrible possibility and scenario in my mind. Geez, I am a failure. How could I let this happen. You should have known better Rue. What were you thinking? You are a thousand miles from home, you don’t know anyone, you’re running out of money, you can’t even feed yourself. The voice in my head turned brutal and began identifying every insecurity I have ever had.

Your are not good enough, what pipe dream, 

everyone said it’s impossible, no one believes in you, you are a dumb ass, this will teach you to follow your dreams, get real Rue, you are not enough………… Sir……Sir…..excuse me Sir.

I am suddenly back in the room, pulled by the words of the Cashier. “Sir you are all set” the cashier says. I am totally confused. Did she reprocess my card? Wait? What is going on? I ask “Did the card clear?” She responds, “No that Lady paid for it.” My jaw must have dropped to the floor. I am still not understanding what just happened. Wait. Hold on. What Lady? Who? I make eye contact with her and she gives a little wave from the line that has now reached the back of the store. I collect my resupply, walk to the door, and wait for the Trail Angel to check out her own purchases. I wait and then she approaches me. I try to explain that I have money and that there is just a banking issue. She tells me not to worry and that she is happy to help.

I can’t figure this one out. She appears to be about my age. I guessing a mother of 3 or 4 children. She is in a hurry and I wonder if she is just grabbing a few things for her family on her lunch break. What are the chances I run into this Angel here? She doesn’t know me. I am a dirty stranger with a backpack. She doesn’t know I am Rue McKenrick creator of The APT. She doesn’t know I left the comforts of Friends and Family, that I have put it all on the line to follow my Calling. She doesn’t know anything and it doesn’t matter. I stare hard into her eyes as she minimizes her random act of kindness. 

Then the tears come. They start rolling down my face and the hers. There are no more words. We embrace each of us crying in each other’s arms. Two Strangers. We were in a very overcrowded store but in that moment it was just her and I. We didn’t exchange information or anything. She was in a hurry and didn’t really seem like she wanted to be recognized for her kind act.

I watch her get into her 99 Buick and pull away. I don’t know who she is but I still think of her from time to time. Every once in while I picture her seeing me on some press and recognizes me. But I know she doesn’t  need any validation or credit. Her words, “Everybody has got to eat.” If you are out there somewhere. Thank you from every bit of my being. I will never be the same.

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