Are we ever really alone?
By Bill Haden, Market President, Scott Valley Bank

I find it rejuvenating to hit the trail and lose myself hiking in the wilderness. There’s something about the self sufficiency of carrying a heavy pack and relying on your own knowledge and common sense. The wild always throws you a few curves. It might be weather, trail conditions, a snoring companion, or smoke from an occasional wild fire. It is fun and refreshing to be alone in the woods and very different from my normal daily life.

At times, the loneliness is refreshing. When you get into a proper rhythm and perambulate down the trail, your thoughts wander and the miles drift by. All this is mixed with a reasonable level of pain from the weight of the pack and severity of the trail. I usually find myself thinking about the things I left behind and projects waiting for me when I return to civilization while simultaneously enjoying nature. Being alone on the trail helps me appreciate the things I temporarily left behind and intensifies my appreciation for family, friends, and community.

The longest I have been on the trail in one stretch is 28 days hiking the fabulous John Muir trail. That was plenty of time to reconcile the past and think about the future. When I return home from one of my trips, I quickly find myself thankful for my creature comforts and often immerse in projects aimed serving people. While it’s nice to get away and purge our cluttered minds, it is equally pleasant to get back and address more worldly issues.

Recently, I’ve been involved in a not-for-profit group called KidSpree. It takes months of planning, but culminates with volunteers, like me, helping first through sixth grade low-income kids buy back-to-school clothes for the coming year. We meet at the local J.C. Penney at 7 a.m. on a Saturday to begin our duties. This year we served about 190 young people from various backgrounds who were hand-picked for the program based on financial need. I was assigned a young man, who will remain anonymous, entering the fifth grade. He has two brothers and was a very fine and engaging lad. After a brief introduction, my new friend and I made a mad dash for the shoe display. He was wearing his older brother’s shoes that were several sizes too large and clearly didn’t fit. We picked out a great looking pair of athletic shoes, two pairs of jeans, two good looking shirts, underwear and socks. As we got ready to move to the checkout stand, something caught his eye and he stopped abruptly. We were standing in front of the tie display.

He said, “Bill, you know we have pictures taken at school, and I think my dad would be very proud if I wore a tie this year.”
So, to our mutual delight, we picked out a cool bow tie to match one of his new shirts and proceeded to the checker. I’m sure the bow tie was the high point of his day. After shopping, we picked up a hot breakfast provided by McDonald’s, selected a backpack filled with school supplies, and my new friend wrote a short but touching thank you note:

 “Thank you Bill for your help today. I’m excited about school this year. My new tie is cool.”

I hope each of you have found a way to strike balance in your life. Enjoy your habits that break the rhythm of your busy daily lives. As we look for ways to help other people, we recognize we are never really alone.      

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bill Haden is Scott Valley Bank's Market President in Southern Oregon.
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