It was early afternoon on August 2, 2021, when one of the most famous Appalachian Trail thru-hikers ever walked into AIIA’s Study Center here on Wilkins Street in Monson.
Initially I did not recognize him as such. So he reminded me that we had first met 21 years ago, in the Fall of 2000, when he was thru-hiking the trail for the first time. He said that upon my invitation he had joined us for worship at the Monson Community Church. Then it all began to come back to me.
We visited for about an hour. As the moments went by, I began to be increasing impressed (and to even feel humbled and blessed) by this gentle unpretentious man. His incredible story and fame (including even a listing on Wikipedia) are about to gain even wider attention because, if he completes his current hike late this year as planned, he will become the oldest person on record to ever thru-hike the entire trail in one season — at the age of 82-83!
Nimblewill Nomad is the trail name for Dr. Meredith “Sunny” Eberhart who one day, at the age of 61, retired, went on a hike, and never stopped walking. He has authored a number of books about his many colorful experiences as a perpetual hiker. He told me that he owns no property in this world.
Our discussion turned to spiritual matters. When I asked him what he thought about Jesus he said, “Maybe this will answer your question” and promptly launched into a moving recitation of (actually, he seemed to be praying, not just reciting) the following self-composed prayer-poem:
Lord, set me a path by the side of the road,
Pray this be a part of your plan.
Then heap on the burden and pile on the load
‘n I’ll trek it the best that I can.
Please bless me with patience; touch strength to my back;
Then cut me loose and I’ll go.
Just like the burro totin’ his pack,
The oxen plowin’ his row.
And once on this journey, a witness for you
To’rd truth, thy way…and the light.
Shine bright my countenance steady and true,
O’er the pathway to goodness and right.
And lest I should falter and lest I should fail,
Let all who know that I tried.
For I am a blunderer, feeble and frail,
When you, dear Lord, I’ve denied.
So blessed be the day your judgment comes due,
And blessed be the mercy you showed.
Oh blessed be this journey-all praises to you-
O’er this path by the side of the road.
Later he told me plainly that — yes, Jesus is “my Savior.”
During the Summer and Fall seasons, I have the opportunity to meet and converse with numerous hikers, art students, and visitors passing through Monson who would not call themselves Christians. But on this day I was happy to meet with (and pray for) a professing believer. Christians will spend eternity together in the presence of the great God of the universe. We might as well get acquainted now.
You may want to budget a little time to read more about the extraordinary ongoing saga of Nimblewill Nomad on his website at: https://nimblewillnomad.com