Up at 4A on this Tuesday in late October 2017, Hannah and I are flying 900 miles southwest from Boston to Atlanta for Hannah’s stem cell injections; it’s an experimental procedure to see if stem cells will improve the quality of Hannah’s voice, diminished for the last 15 years with spasmodic dysphonia. Hannah has a 1P appointment at Superior Healthcare in Sandy Springs, 25 miles north of Atlanta.
Our Delta flight from Logan Airport is delayed by federal regulations that require the flight attendants to have enough downtime between flights. Our attendants arrived late last night, so our flight leaves 30 minutes late this morning.
Landing in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Georgia’s capital later than we expect, Hannah calls Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior, to let her know that we are on our way. Hearing their conversation in the next seat, I gather that Houston, we have a problem.
It seems that earlier in the morning the UPS truck arrived at Superior Healthcare without Hannah’s own stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida. Though ordered by Julie for today’s procedure, they are nowhere to be found. The long and short of it is that Hannah will not be getting her stem cell injection today. Julie apologizes and does her best to make things right.
Having already paid for a flight for each of us, our hotel room, and our rental car, Hannah and I have an angel looking out for us. It’s Julie to the rescue as she reschedules Hannah’s appointment for next Thursday; the stem cell bank will pick up all our expenses for our return to Atlanta.
Even so, how is a guy and a gal to feel about this snafu 900 miles from home? Clearly, it was not the outcome we wanted.
Angry? What does that get us? We all know that anger just poisons the angry one.
Disappointed? Not even. Life happens. Punches are thrown. This is a love tap. A first world problem. Today, we’ll rock and roll with this beautiful sunny day in Georgia!
No, the snafu turns out to be one helluva opportunity. We have sunshine for our hike at Stone Mountain, to the east of Atlanta. We always have a choice how to deal with the unexpected.
Stone Mountain has a checkered past. It’s the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, the heinous racist organization that terrorized blacks, Jews, and gays in the South with lynchings and daily fear and dread.
Also, upon Stone Mountain is the bas relief of two prominent Confederate Civil War generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, jr. spoke of the importance to let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Clearly a pointed reference for those who passed 8th grade history class.
Stone Mountain Park has its own exit off four lane Route 78. For $15, we have the run of the park to hike on a gorgeous southern afternoon. Parking near the trailheads is plentiful as we boot up for the one mile Walk Up Trail to the top of Stone Mountain. Though three hundred yards of paved road begin the trail, we soon turn 90 degrees left to climb bare stone to the top.
Stepping up and over stone ledges, I have never seen a trail like this one – a rising all-stone path to the top of the mountain. Even on this mid-week day, the trail is happy with people but not swarming as it must be on spring and fall weekends.
Climbing steadily, we have a workout that most can do; that said, it’s no walk in the park. Near the top there is a double railing for climbing a particularly steep section of the trail. Welcoming the assistance, we see twenty-something athletes using the trail for an afternoon workout.
Atop Stone Mountain, the wind picks up, but the sunshine and joy of the climb warms us up and down. Spotting the Sky Tram that floats visitors to the summit, we make a pit stop at the lodge’s rest rooms; across the lobby, there’s a snack shop, worthy of any Regal Cinema in America, selling sugar products; and then even more sugar if you like.
After a half hour of climbing to the top, the descent is easy-peezy.
Arriving back at the trailhead an hour after our start, we turn right for the orange blaze Connecting Trail that soon hooks us up with the Cherokee Trail that circles the mountain. It’s a delightful dirt trail within hailing distance of an active railroad under the canopy of deciduous trees.
Within twenty minutes, we are at the base of the Confederate Heroes in all their glory on the flat vertical side of Stone Mountain. What’s a Yankee to make of all this?
I don’t doubt the sincerity of these men, but I can’t but wonder how misguided was their defense of slavery (euphemistically referred to as the Peculiar Institution); it seems so transparently bogus to claim that the South was fighting for states’ rights in the Civil War.
Were the Southernors rebels or traitors? Inflammatory nouns serve little purpose. They divide rather than unite in this time when bullying and name-calling are the order of the day from the Oval Office.
So how do we unite? One possibility is that we start by not seeing the other side as the devil. We do the Stephen Covey thing (the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
We listen. We approach them with love in our hearts, not retaliatory invective. We believe that good will win out. And we don’t lose faith.
Later, over wine and cheese and crackers at our Comfort Inn and Suites near the Atlanta airport, Hannah and I toast our unexpected glorious day and thank the turn of events for making it so.