Human beings are social by nature. Aristotle told us that, but we also experience it for ourselves.

I just finished reading a book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, about Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. She accomplished the first of three through hikes of the AT in 1955 when she was 67 years old.

Grandma Gatewood hiked alone for most of the 2050 miles, except for short stretches when other hikers met up with her and accompanied her briefly. But she relied on the kindness of total strangers on her route repeatedly for food, shelter, help crossing rivers that had overflowed their banks, warm beds, and even new shoes (she went through seven pairs on her first through hike). Once word got out that she was undertaking the adventure, it became increasingly common for reporters to track her down, and she generously sat for many interviews. Eventually the entire nation was following her progress through various media, creating a huge community of “Grandma Gatewood” watchers – many virtual (through print media and TV/radio) and a few in person.

Could she have accomplished the hike on her own? She had a lot of grit, so perhaps she could have, but it would have been difficult. As it happened, she was not afraid to ask total strangers if they would put her up for a night or help in other ways. Most people were happy to help, agreeing to give her — a total stranger — a bed or a meal, often offering more assistance than she requested.

Not only do we need to connect with each other for our physical needs from time to time like Grandma Gatewood, but we also need to connect on an emotional level. Our health and well-being depend on connection.

The past two years have created many challenges to face-to-face connecting with others, as everyone knows. But it is good for our well-being to do what we can to create opportunities to safely meet in person. Virtual gathering does not meet all of our needs for connection, and it’s wonderful that we now know so much more than we did two years ago about how to get together in safety. Enjoy every opportunity to connect and re-connect safely with others!

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