Ode to Joy

You Speak English?

My husband and I have spent the majority of our three year marriage living in other countries.  Most often our communication with one another is one of the few places we are fluent in our expression.  When the two of us met with people we were working with or people in need, often translation was needed, or in some cases a great deal of non-verbals.

I remember one of the first times entering the back of a cab in Jordan as my husband took the front seat.  The driver didn’t speak English but understood our attempt to verbalize our location enough that he could drive us there.  Not really being familiar yet with the culture, my apprehensions as an uncovered female and an American lingered in my mind.  Is this cab driver trustworthy?  Will he bring us to the right place?  And other questions of the sort lingered in my mind.

All Strangers Are But New Friends

Leave it to my husband.  Within the first three minutes with very little mutual language my husband broke through the awkward nuances (which I’ve come to believe don’t exist for him) and had the driver not only smiling but full on laughing in the cab.  When a strangers laughs with you, whether they want to or not (I think some people are surprised by the laughter the escapes them so quickly), one immediately feels peace enter the exchange.

Being back in an English speaking country with my husband hiking the Appalachian Trail has placed my husband in his prime using his gift I referred to above.  One is never at a loss to meet strangers daily on the trail.  Whether your coming into a shelter late at night, or others are, or your passing day hikers in a busy area on a weekend, you share a tiny bunk room in a hostel, you are regularly coming into contact with people that have never met you.

On The Trail

And everyday I loved getting to see my husband be himself.  It is truly a miracle to watch.  He has a divine love that lives inside him and flows out to people he comes in contact with.  Don’t mistake me, though, he won’t put up with any bull (which is where he gets his name Matador) and will call you out on it, especially if others are being bothered.

I would often hike a little ways in front of my husband on the trail.  If I passed somebody going the opposite direction I would say hi and keep hiking.  But as the person met my husband, I could literally count the seconds before the person was laughing.  Almost every time.  I have no idea what he says.  He doesn’t know that person’s sense of humor, he doesn’t even know that person, but he would have strangers laughing every day.

We passed a group of twenty active elderly women on Saturday.  “Oh this is going to be good,” I thought as I passed.  He had them cackling.  And it wasn’t just a polite chuckle, you could still hear them laughing after he passed.


Joy may be easy when everything is going great, but to carry joy even when you injure your ankle, even when your finances are getting tighter, even when its raining for the third day in a row, even when you didn’t sleep barely at all the night before, to continue to lay a hold of joy then and share it is beautiful to see.

As Matador moves north up the trail so does his rich heart.  I realize I’m someone he has met on the trail of his life and I too, yet, laugh.

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Your magic joins again
What convention strictly divides;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

– Friedrich Schiller  “Ode to Joy”

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