Last week was the best week I’ve had in a long time. I was able to spend four days playing outside with 23 high schoolers and two awesome teachers. The weather was perfect, the views were on point, the wildflowers were making an appearance, there were thru-hikers on the A.T. and my motley group of teens had a bonding experience rivaling the 1985 classic, “The Breakfast Club.” 

My favorite moment (besides winning the group game of mafia) was standing at the river on our final morning watching teenagers skipping rocks, playing hand clapping games, climbing trees and cheering on friends as they returned from their solo hike. These are teenagers… the same ones we think can’t live without their phones. Turns out they are more Breakfast Club minded than most of us adults who grew up in the 80s, and they are sometimes better at putting down their devices than parents and teachers. I learned a lot and laughed a lot with this crew; it was such a special week. 

Then I got home, looked at my phone, and felt sick to my stomach. I was abruptly reminded that there was a war going on half a world away and all of a sudden, the ability to hike, and play, felt very privileged. 

It’s hard to know how to feel about the situation in Ukraine. I feel sad, helpless, privileged, guilty… all of it. 

When I think about what I can actually do to change the situation, there’s both some hope and some frustration. On one hand, I wish I could do more. I wish I could help protect people, feed people, talk reason into people. When you know people are hurting, it never feels like enough…

On, the other hand, I believe in the power of positive energy and prayer. So I am sending that. 

I also believe in the power of monetary donations, so we are donating 15% of all Blue Ridge Hiking Company sales on March 11th to Doctors without Borders and World Central Kitchens in Ukraine. 

And, I believe - in a very Star Wars-esque way - that sometimes the best way you can attack the dark force is with hope, and love, and connection, and kindness, and sharing, and by putting good into the world however and wherever you can. 

I witnessed so much good this week with my 23 new high school BFFs. They cared for one another really well. I also admired the dedication from their teachers who have been hosting this retreat for the past ten years and making such a positive difference in the lives of so many young people. And, I felt the sense of connection to environment and community when we considered that we were all a part of nature – both impactful and impacted in this worldwide ecosystem. 

I think in this day and age, all the feelings - or “feels” as my high school friends call them - are valid and normal. The hurt for those suffering will probably stay. But when and if you feel guilty, like I sometimes do, try to channel that emotion into making a positive difference through your spiritual or energetic petitions, with your resources, and in your community. Loving your neighbor might not stop the current war the way we want, but it could make a world of difference in the future.