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On the first of July, my son began hiking from Canada to Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.

His goal is to complete the 2,600-mile adventure by early November. During his first week he hiked in snow and rain before enjoying the warmth of two sunny days.

On his fifth day, my son was pleasantly surprised by an encounter with “PCT trail magic” — an unexpected act of kindness and generosity toward hikers on and off trail.

According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, “trail magic — lending support to long-distance PCT hikers – is a practice that’s been on the rise. It has many forms: a ride into town; a cold soda at the trailhead; a shower and a bunk.Many people consider these to be remarkable acts of kindness and a positive influence on the trail experience.”

The amazing people who generously perform these acts of kindness, many of them former through-hikers on the PCT, are called “trail angels.”

One trail angel had this to say: “I go out of my way to contribute to the pool of trail magic whenever I can by doing what I can for other hikers who need a hand or by giving people who I know are regular trail angels a little extra cash to pass along to someone who needs it more than I do. It evens out in the end and you never know when you’ll need a little trail magic yourself.”

The reason this generous support is called magic is the spontaneity of it. Hikers are not to take these acts of kindness and generosity for granted or make plans based on it. The sage advice of veteran hikers is to “just let it happen and be grateful.”

Although I’m only “hiking the PCT” vicariously through my son, it is easy for me to make connections with God’s grace and my adventures of faith in everyday life.

First, Jesus sent his disciples out to tell with joyful urgency the people they met on the road that life can be radically different; they went with Jesus clear instructions to travel light and to welcome the hospitality they receive along the way (Mark 6:7-13).

Second, the Apostle Paul taught a community of faith in Rome to extend hospitality to strangers (Romans 12:13), because that is what followers of Jesus have received from others.

Third, I have the joy of serving a community of faith that gathers weekly to be fed at the Lord’s table of grace and then go in peace to make God visible by sharing with others what God has first given to them.

In the adventures of daily living, grace — the free and unearned gift of our loving and generous God — happens. For that I give God thanks and praise.

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Kent Johnson is associate pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.


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