Friday, November 10, 2017

Two Trails or Many?

Harold Bell Wright’s novel, The Shepherd of the Hills (1907) begins with this paragraph: “This, my story, is a very old story.  In the hills of life there are two trails.  One lies along the higher sunlit fields where those who journey see afar, and the light lingers even when the sun is down; and one leads to the lower ground, where those who travel, as they go, look always over their shoulders with eyes of dread, and gloomy shadows gather long before the day is done.”

In our finest moments we have sometimes walked that trail “along the higher sunlit fields,” and from that trail we have seen afar, “and the light lingers when the sun is down.”  In our human frailty and brokenness, however, we have also, at times, traveled the trail which “leads to the lower ground and we have experienced the “gloomy shadows” that seem to “gather long before the day is done.”  My own journey has taught me that there are more than two trails meandering through “the hills of life.”  Each of these many trails have ruts, dips, detours and horseshoe curves, and create many a blister on the human soul. There are also many trails “in the hills of life” that are not taken, and may never be traveled as Robert Frost tells us. Like Wright, Frost implies that there are just two roads: 
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…

I know there are many roads in the hills of life. I’ve walked a good number of them. Some we choose and some are forced on us by the uncontrollable circumstances of life.  Many years ago I read Mary T. Lathrap’s poem, “Judge Softly” (1895).  It helps me recall the many trails of my journey (and the blisters) and those  trails traveled by my brothers and sisters the world over.  

Pray don't find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don't sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too....

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize, and accuse.

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