A tradition of kindness on the Appalachian Trail

Photo by Adilet Asilbekov on Unsplash

To download these free stories, please enter the newspaper publication you represent with your email address. We will email you when we add new stories each month. Thanks!

Note: We are committed to keeping your e-mail address confidential. We do not sell, rent, or lease our contact data or lists to third parties. Please see our privacy policy for details.

Please enter your organization and email above before downloading these articles.

Download PDF Word .doc Download Photo .jpg

Pass It On®

A tradition of kindness on the Appalachian Trail

By The Foundation for a Better Life

The Appalachian Trail is a rugged footpath that runs from Northern Georgia to Central Maine along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. It passes through 14 states and all kinds of unpredictable weather. At age 21, Nick, an avid outdoorsman raised in Maine, decided the journey would be a good adventure. The trek takes an average of 6 months. Hiking 20 miles a day through the wilderness for 5 or 6 months will get you to a place you’ve never been before.

“I guess I wasn’t prepared for two things,” says Nick. “How hard sections of the trail were going to be, and all the small acts of kindness along the way that kept me going.” Those thru-hikers who complete the entire 2,200 miles talk about trail magic, little acts of kindness that happen at exactly the time they are needed. “I had been living on filtered water and granola bars for a month, my legs were aching, my body hurt, and I was having that once-a-week feeling of quitting. I came around a corner, and there was a bag of clementines hanging from a tree. A small thing at home, but on the trail, the taste of that fresh fruit was so amazing it kept me going for days.”

As Nick learned, the people who live in the towns that border the trail see it as a privilege to give. “People blindside you with kindness,” Nick says. They provide rides into town when hikers need to replenish. They open their homes to a fresh shower after months on the trail. And they offer encouragement to keep going.

Sweet oranges are one thing. But after Nick’s first two weeks on the trail, an unseasonable cold front hit Northern Georgia. Normal temperatures of 20 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit dipped down to 0, and the wind gusted through the branches above. Nick remembers doing situps in his thin sleeping bag all night to keep warm. “I got started early the next morning because I was so cold and had to get moving. I couldn’t feel my toes until noon. The next stop was a lean-to 20 miles away, and I decided that if the night was as miserable as the last, I would pack it in. It got dark, and really cold again. But when I entered the lean-to, somebody had brought up two down comforters---hiked the seven miles in from town hauling two comforters. I was so tired and relieved, I cried. I never slept better in my life.”

Nick would go on, experiencing small acts of kindness that motivated him and discovering that his own small acts of kindness kept others going, too. “When you have extra food, you share it. You share a campfire. When it’s raining sideways, you build a wall with rain ponchos. You work together. You encourage other thru-hikers to keep going,” Nick says. “Once you get through Virginia, you get this energy high because you know you are part of something greater that will support you. You learn to trust it. Not rely on it, just trust it. Your hope develops. And when it’s all over, you realize how great the people in this country are.”

Trail magic is kindness in action, kindness without being seen. Kindness that becomes the change we all need.

Kindness... PassItOn.com®

Copyright ©2021 The Foundation for a Better Life. All rights reserved.

Pass It On®

The Foundation for a Better Life, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, gives your newspaper permission to publish these stories in print and electronic media (excluding audio and video), provided the stories are published in their entirety, without modification and including the copyright notice. For any modification, permission must first be obtained from the Foundation by emailing media-relations@passiton.com. Thank you.

  email

Your Comments
Here are some other inspiring newspaper articles you might like.
Give Peace a Chance.

Give Peace a Chance.
How a Mexican-American Marine negotiated peace speaking Japanese during WWll.

If You Love Dogs, You’ll Love this Story.

If You Love Dogs, You’ll Love this Story.
A German shepherd slept at his owner’s gravesite.

The History of Us.

The History of Us.
How a football coach develops young men by teaching them their own history.

Recognizing the Need.

Recognizing the Need.
How a neighbor took a disaffected young man under his wing and taught him how to be a man

Playtime is for Everybody.

Playtime is for Everybody.
A dad sells off his business and builds a theme park for disabled kids.

Everybody Gets on Base.

Everybody Gets on Base.
Measuring the victories of life, one single at a time.

Are You Smarter Than a Seventh-Grade Business Owner?

Are You Smarter Than a Seventh-Grade Business Owner?
How Kidpreneur Alejandro Buxton is making money for college and helping others.

Turning Tough News Into Hope.

Turning Tough News Into Hope.
How 11-year-old Jordan Phillips raised $120,000 to help fund cancer treatment.

A Diamond in the Making.

A Diamond in the Making.
How an everyday superhero saved the day by taking time to go through the garbage to find a stranger’s wedding ring.

The Legacy of Dorothy Vaughan.

The Legacy of Dorothy Vaughan.
The Hidden Figure who Helped Put a man on the Moon.

Something Healthy for All of Us

Something Healthy for All of Us
How 17-year-old Barron Prize Winners Annie and Shirley Zhu provide fresh food for 1,400 people a year.

The Last Person you Think of Should Probably be the First.

The Last Person you Think of Should Probably be the First.
How a group of high school boys practiced the art of inclusion.

The Least Likely to Help.

The Least Likely to Help.
How a bedridden attorney still fights for the rights of others.

Using the Write Words

Using the Write Words
How an African American Woman Wrote her Way to Freedom.

More Than Just Dancing

More Than Just Dancing
How inclusion helps overcome mental illness.

The World Awaits You.

The World Awaits You.
The story of the first woman to circumnavigate the world.

Born to Make a Difference.

Born to Make a Difference.
Kids who are changing their world.

The Brotherhood in Sports Goes Beyond the Field.

The Brotherhood in Sports Goes Beyond the Field.
How a men’s rugby team supported one of their own.

Taking Care.

Taking Care.
How one woman turned a life of neglect into a lifetime of taking care of people.

Fix it Yourself.

Fix it Yourself.
How one couple moved hundreds of miles from home to run a center for pregnant teenage girls.

Cross Safely.

Cross Safely.
How one man made sure his retirement years were spent helping kids move safely through life.

Courage in a New World.

Courage in a New World.
The story of Stagecoach Mary, the first Black woman to deliver mail in the Wild West.

Taking Responsibility.

Taking Responsibility.
How one high school student supported her family during the pandemic.

The Curse of Texting and Driving.

The Curse of Texting and Driving.
How one father turned personal tragedy into triumph for thousands of teenagers by creating the Honor Connor Scholarship Fund.

Going Deep to Deliver Kindness.

Going Deep to Deliver Kindness.
Free-dive record holder Enzo Maiorca rescues a trapped dolphin, then watches as it gives birth.

Stay Curious.

Stay Curious.
The remarkable underwater life of Jacques Cousteau.

Never, Ever Give Up.

Never, Ever Give Up.
The incredible story of the 12-year-old cancer patient who brings joy to half a million children fighting cancer.

Education is for Everyone.

Education is for Everyone.
Reading and writing are the basics of an education. See why a 90-year-old Kenyan great-grandmother went back to primary school.

The Art of Pitching.

The Art of Pitching.
A little confidence at the right time goes a long way.

Taking Care of the Most Vulnerable.

Taking Care of the Most Vulnerable.
Pam Tully dedicates 6 months a year to rescuing baby flying foxes alongside the volunteers who help her.

Being a Mother…

Being a Mother…
The roundabout journey to a dream fulfilled.

How to Honor Your Mother.

How to Honor Your Mother.
Warrick Dunn played in the NFL for 12 seasons. His most impressive stat: He’s built 200 homes for single mothers. And he’s not done.

Overcoming Our Own Worst Mistakes.

Overcoming Our Own Worst Mistakes.
Kaelin Clay made an unpardonable error in football. And he owned it.

Sometimes the Wrong Direction is the Right Way.

Sometimes the Wrong Direction is the Right Way.
How a wrong number, a wrong text and a mix-up led to long-lasting friendships.

No Matter Who You Are, You Can Always Help.

No Matter Who You Are, You Can Always Help.
The day Muhammad Ali rushed to save a stranger who was about to take his own life.

For Soccer Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Every Day is Mother’s Day.

For Soccer Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Every Day is Mother’s Day.
Fortune and fame have allowed the soccer great to take care of his mother after all she has done for him.

Listening to the Music Inside.

Listening to the Music Inside.
The long journey of Maria Tallchief from the Osage Nation in Oklahoma to prima ballerina in New York City.

The Little Things that Make the Biggest Difference.

The Little Things that Make the Biggest Difference.
How one man created a forest the size of Central Park by planting one tree a day.

Finding a New Family at the Mountain Man Rendezvous.

Finding a New Family at the Mountain Man Rendezvous.
How a Vietnam vet pulled himself out of drug addiction by going back in the past.

Let the Kids Give it a Try

Let the Kids Give it a Try
How 17-year-old Dasia Taylor developed sutures that detect infection.

Billy Mills

Billy Mills
The story behind America’s first and only 10,000-meter Olympic champion.

A Lesson We Should Never Forget.

A Lesson We Should Never Forget.
The incredible story of American POWs smuggling rations to Russian prisoners at Stalag-B.

Road Trip Across America.

Road Trip Across America.
A discovery of what unites us.

Reach for the Stars…

Reach for the Stars…
No Matter How Long it Takes.

Including Everybody Means Everybody.

Including Everybody Means Everybody.
How Inclusion Films is making movies using crew with developmental disabilities.

Beatrice Shilling

Beatrice Shilling
The motorcycle daredevil who became a mechanical engineer and saved the lives of countless pilots in WWll.

The Future Belongs to Kids.

The Future Belongs to Kids.
So far, things look pretty bright.

An Impossible Journey.

An Impossible Journey.
How John Wesley Powell navigated the Colorado River and Grand Canyon in wooden boats.

Bringing the Moon to your Living Room.

Bringing the Moon to your Living Room.
How 14-year-old Philo Farnsworth tinkered his way to the technology that broadcast the moon landing.

Laughter is the Best Teacher.

Laughter is the Best Teacher.
How humor and history go together in this classroom.

Our Local Heroes in Scrubs.

Our Local Heroes in Scrubs.
How health care workers saved the day.

Bigger than Life.

Bigger than Life.
How Premier League superstar Sadio Mané is changing the world beyond soccer.

You’re Never Too Old to Make a Difference.

You’re Never Too Old to Make a Difference.
British WWll veteran Captain Tom Moore raised over $45 million for charity at age 100.

Everybody Can Be a Hero.

Everybody Can Be a Hero.
How window cleaners brightened the day at a children’s hospital.

A Hero for Accessibility.

A Hero for Accessibility.
How an 8-year-old girl captured the attention of the nation and motivated Congress.

For the Cost of a Box of Cereal.

For the Cost of a Box of Cereal.
How just noticing makes all the difference in the world.

No Strings Attached.

No Strings Attached.
How a 7-year-old girl brings joy to neighbors with her violin.

Beyond the Moon with an Eye on Mars.

Beyond the Moon with an Eye on Mars.
The story of a young woman who dreamed of pushing the boundaries and now designs launch systems for NASA.