It is said that strangers are just friends waiting to happen, but sometimes a stranger is not so unknown after all.
“I arranged a long-anticipated hike with Scholars Program students up Mt. Wilson, a 15-mile round trip. We started at 6:40 a.m. About a mile or so into the hike, one of the students caught up to the group and continued on the long hike.
Around that time, I said, ‘Hello,’ to a friendly man who started hiking along with us. The friendly man was wearing street clothes and carried a cup from a coffee shop — nothing else.
I figured he had decided to explore the trail on a whim. He kept going with us, walking alongside me. We talked extensively about all kinds of subjects and he was very pleasant.
To myself, I was thinking, ‘This is a great example of the camaraderie that can result from chance meetings on hikes! It’s just the kind of organization that we want Scholars to be, too: friendly and inclusive! Of course we welcome anyone to join us! That’s what we are all about!’
The friendly man continued with us to the first and second checkpoints along the Mt. Wilson Trail, volunteering to take pictures of our group and posing in some as well. He continued all the way to the top of Mt. Wilson.
There, he posed in our large group photos to mark the occasion. Here again, I thought, ‘We Scholars are inclusive! Isn’t it great that this friendly man feels comfortable with us!’
Then the friendly man and one of the Scholars students asked if I would take their picture, which I completely accepted as fine and wonderful, since I had seen him speaking with other Scholars, too. I thought, ‘That student made a friend! How nice! They want to remember this moment with a photo together!’ So I took the photo, which has them beaming with their arms around each other’s shoulders.
Then we hiked all the way back down, and some of us went out to a celebratory dinner. There, some of the Scholars and I started talking about highlights of the hike that whole day. At one point, they mentioned the student who was in the photo with the friendly man.
It was then, and only then, that I realized that the friendly man was the student’s father. It had not at all occurred to me beforehand. Everyone, including the student and later his father, laughed heartily at the fact that I didn’t know.”
-Michael Harnett, English Department