This week in Northern England, 80-year-old Harry Harvey went missing during a heavy hailstorm while he was hiking in the Yorkshire Dales. Four days later, he walked into the very pub where his family was preparing for a news conference about his disappearance.
His only complaints were that he was hungry and low on food, and that if he’d known a search party had spent all that time looking for him, he’d have found another way home so he could have avoided all the attention.
He described enjoying three nights of wild camping while his family described having lived through a nightmare, and a member of the 100-member rescue crew described how they expected an unfortunate end to the matter.
Aren’t we humans amazing? I’d like to think that my 80-year-old dad could survive such an ordeal, but I’d never expect that he actually could. If I’m being honest, I don’t know that I would assume that I could survive such an ordeal! But, as the saying goes, we should never say never, because anything is possible.
Years ago while hiking the Appalachian Trail, we met a man who was around 80 years old and hiking from Georgia to his 60th high school reunion in New Jersey. He was a spry and clever guy and he proudly told me how he had dehydrated most of the food for his trip in the hatchback window of his car.
I doubt that 60 years before, as he was graduating high school, he could have predicted such an accomplishment, but he did it. I would wager that no one else could make such a claim, but who knows. It certainly remains as a silent challenge in the back of my mind.
In another AT encounter, a thin and fragile man walked up to the shelter we had chosen for the night, looking as though he might collapse right there on the spot under the weight of his backpack. If I remember correctly, we helped him remove his pack and settled in to hear his story while he ate a “meal.”
He described how he had experienced several bouts of colon cancer over the last several years, having sections of colon removed each time until he was down to a small stomach and a short section left, requiring that he eat very frequent but small meals. He had decided that if he was ever going to realize his dream of hiking the AT, he might as well get on with it. And so, there he was, against all odds, hiking the trail and stopping to eat every 10 to 15 minutes.
I still can’t imagine how that was even remotely possible but, never say never.
Is it just me, or does it feel like we are dealing with seemingly insurmountable predicaments in the world today? From a pandemic health crisis around the globe to an unconquerable political and social chasm in our own country, it seems like we find ourselves facing impossibilities nearly every day.
Finding solutions to these seemingly hopeless situations is not out of the question, but it will take fortitude, intention, determination and a positive attitude.
Harry Harvey didn’t survive for four days in the wilderness with meager supplies by feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t achieve the unthinkable by looking for someone to blame for his unfortunate state of affairs.
In reports of the details, he seems to be a pretty jolly fellow who simply realized that he needed to find a safe place to set up camp and went about doing so. He described seeing a helicopter and several people walking in the distance, but they apparently didn’t hear him blowing his emergency whistle.
When he finally spotted a woman in the park, he caught her attention and she was thrilled to discover that he was the man they all thought was lost for good.
To hear Harvey describe his experience, it is clear that he could have happily continued his walk in the woods, had he been carrying more food. He was surprised to learn that so many people were involved in searching for him and feeling so desperate about his safety.
Can you imagine facing something as scary as being lost in the woods and not sure when you might find your way home with such a happy heart? I sure can’t, and to read the way that we carry on about our circumstances now, I’m not sure many of us could.
What an inspiration in keeping hope and happiness alive, no matter how dire your chances might seem.
I know many people who are struggling right now with illness, addiction, relationships and more. My hope for them and for each of us is to keep a positive determination towards whatever their goals may be, no matter how impossible they may seem. Most of the time, we hold the ability to accomplish great things within us, and sometimes that greatness may not look like what we could ever have imagined.
Stay strong. Stay hopeful. Stay gracious. Approach each day as a new opportunity for conquering impossible things and, most importantly, no matter how impossible it seems, never say never.