It’s official: I won’t be physically hiking for Wilderness Heals this year.
This is a really, really hard thing for me to handle. If you’ve talked to me at all in the past six years, you know how important the hike and the hikers and the Elizabeth Stone House have been to me. In 2010, I signed up having never put on a pair of hiking boots. Since then, I’ve summited half of the Four Thousand Footers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, hiked hundreds of miles, team led, and told pretty much every woman I know about the hike. Heck, the hike even inspired the novel I’m writing.
Wilderness Heals is no small commitment, but I’ve always made space for it. I went on the hike a week before my wedding. I went on the hike when I could barely afford to take the time off from work. I went on the hike even when I knew I likely wouldn’t be able to raise the $1,500 minimum and would have to cover the balance myself. The only thing that kept me from hiking last year was the fact that I was 9 months pregnant. ELF made her entrance one week after the hike.
What keeps me coming back? Every bit of the hike. The mountains. The women who have stood by me through so many important life changes. And then there’s the Elizabeth Stone House. For 42 years, they’ve been serving the community and working to stop the cycles of homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, and trauma. They provide emergency and transitional housing. They provide childcare and peace of mind. They counsel and empower and educate and support. They build and enrich the community. How could you not show up for an organization like that?
I promised myself that I’d hike this year. I was prepared to pump-and-dump breastmilk on the trail. I was prepared to really tighten the belt to make sure I could cover the fundraising minimum since I’m not salaried anymore. I was gearing myself up to leave ELF and Mike for three days to do something bigger than myself.
But I can’t.
When you have a breastfed baby that doesn’t take a bottle, you can’t leave. You can’t spend more than a few hours away because they need to eat and you are their only source of food. We got here the way we got here, and we’ve exhausted the options we’ve exhausted; if you’re interested in minutiae, PM me. What it boils down to is this: I can’t go on a three-day hike, no matter how wonderful the cause.
A few years back one of the Elizabeth Stone House’s clients stood in front of the hikers as we got ready to leave and reminded us that there are always some people who need help and some people who can help. And though I won’t be on the trails this year, I’m still someone who can help.
For the second year in a row, I’m virtual hiking to support the Elizabeth Stone House and the 2016 Wilderness Heals hikers. I’m sure that, in time, I’ll come up with some awesome statistics of how far ELF and I have walked together, of how much we’ve accomplished together, but for now, it’s enough to tell you this. And to ask you to join us.
If you’re a woman in the Boston area, consider hiking. I cannot tell you enough how much you’ll love it.
And if you’re not able to hike, lend your support some other way. Contribute towards my goal. Share this post and information about the Elizabeth Stone House with your own communities. Start tough conversations about domestic violence and homelessness and substance abuse with the people around you, and don’t let silence enable your communities to assume these are inevitable parts of people’s lives. Find a way to be a person that can help by doing what you can do.
You’ll be glad you did.