Dear Mr. Stutzman (Apostle Paul),
I just finished reading Hiking Through and thought I’d share the impact ofyour story on me.
Hiking Through was loaned to me by a gentlemen I recently met in New Hampshire. Like you, he lost his wife to illness. As an avid hiker, Steve experienced a personal connection with your story and thought it might help me understand what he could not put into words.
Your story invoked both great joy and deep sorrow. I smiled and laughed at some of your descriptions of people, places and events along your trek; however, several times I could not continue reading, for my eyes were clouded with tears. Your steadfast dedication to your goal, through all the adversity and triumphs you experienced on the Appalachian Trail, helped put into perspective some of the obstacles and opportunities I’ve been presented in my own life. But more importantly, it showed me what a person can accomplish in spite of the pain and sorrow that many never overcome.
It helped me begin to understand what Steve went through with the loss of his wife. It touched my heart and started me down a path of examining what’s important in my own life, especially with my 40th wedding anniversary fast approaching.
A bit of background – my wife and I recently moved to New Hampshire, leaving central Ohio (Licking County) after 36 years of school and work. I left two rewarding but stressful careers (engineering and motorcycling) to focus on making our remaining years together meaningful. My wife sacrificed much (my work involved frequent travel and many hours of working at home) so I could serve the constituents of my employers. My goal now is to make our remaining time together worthwhile, not only for us but for those in our community and those I was blessed to know during my careers.
Early next year, I’ll have an opportunity to speak at a conference, before a group of people I’ve addressed several times before. My presentation this time will be different – I plan to speak about choices in life. I’d like to summarize the story of your friend’s death when you were fifteen years old and to read the paragraph in the chapter “Let’s Go Left” (last paragraph, page 114) about Choices. Your words tie together my choice to leave my careers; another very personal choice I made this summer; and the results of research I’m doing now to motivate people to make better choices in their own personal lives.
You hoped your story would be read by people who needed to read it. Steve, my new New Hampshire friend, needed to read it. He understood that Hiking Through would help me to get to know him better and understand his journey of healing. Your story did indeed reach two people who benefitted from your words, wit and wisdom.
Thank you for sharing your deeply personal and moving story.