DSC03894I called it the “dam trip,” and dragged my husband along. Labor Day didn’t mean we had to work–me at my computer writing and Robert in his garden gardening–and besides, the day held the promise of perfect weather. Temperature in the seventies, cloudless sky, and a slight breeze all indicated to me it was time to do something in nature. Kayaking was out because of some back pain for Robert. The next best thing? A dam drive in the Smokies.

Three major dams in western North Carolina provide power for the TVA all within forty miles of one another. The drive took us through towering mountains as the road hugged the shores streams, rivers, and lakes. But one stop at Yellow Creeks Falls did more to restore my faith and hope in mankind than viewing breathtaking vistas.

We hadn’t brought our walking sticks for hiking, something we always do here in the mountains. We started out on the short hike to the small falls, and the path was rocky and narrow. A young couple came toward us, and I pulled up next to a tree to let them pass. He carried a walking stick, and I said. “I wish I’d brought my walking stick,” and nodded to his.

“Here–take this one,” the young man said.

“No, no. That’s fine.” I was sorry I’d made my thought public.

“No,” he insisted, “I don’t need it anymore. It’s yours. I just made it.”

He handed it to me. The stick had been stripped of its bark with one end sharpened into a point. Then he walked on leaving me with his work of art and a much appreciated implement for me to use on the rest of the hike.

Nothing on our dam trip came close to inspiring me more than one young man’s kindness on the waterfall trail. I brought the stick home. It will be my reminder to  pay it forward at every opportunity.

The dam trip renewed me. The young man whose path crossed mine gave more than just a piece of wood he found near the Yellow Creek Falls.


Yellow Creek Falls, Cheoah Recreation Area, North Carolina

Angels Live Lightly

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

A young woman at the doctor’s office treated me rudely the other day. The details aren’t important, but my reaction is. For a few minutes on an otherwise pleasant day, I allowed another person to define me. Then I realized that woman isn’t just rude to me; it’s the world she treats this way. In turn, she perpetuates her attitude because she gets back what she gives out. One day perhaps someone will assist her in turning it around. On the day I encountered her, it wasn’t me.

After I left the office, I decided not to let her darkness of soul become an imprint on me. Many more angels skip through my life and those are the ones I want to emulate. I moved to Pittsburgh two years ago not knowing anyone but my new husband. In that time, I’ve encountered more kindness than meanness.

First, there’s our neighbor Rich who magically appears in our driveway every time the snow covers the pavement. Sometimes I hear the putt-putt of his tractor before I realize snow has started to fall. I’ll look out the window and there’s Rich with his plow clearing our steep driveway. Then he leaves to do his own. Whenever we thank him, he humbly says, “I’m out there anyway.” I suspect he knows how difficult it’s been for me to adjust to the winters in Pennsylvania after thirty years of living in Florida.

Since I work at home, my main social activity is going to the gym to work out and take dance classes. The owners of Body Buzz, John and Carmella, and their staff pay it forward every single day by participating in a variety of local charitable projects. Right now, they’re stuffing stockings for the military with items donated by all the members. They are sponsors for the local chapter of ElderCare and many of us are adopting an older person for Christmas. Also, raffles and sales have been ongoing the past month for the family of a local state police officer killed in the line of duty. This type of work is not just for the holidays – it’s ongoing year round. They do many projects for the local Humane Society chapter as well. The spirit of the owners and employees multiplies out to the members who are kind souls not only keeping in shape but making our world a better place.

Then there’s the woman at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in The Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh. I fell in love with shopping there in my first months of living here. But when I really knew this place captured my heart was my first encounter with Carol Pascuzzi at the cheese counter. Most people refer to her as “dear heart” because that’s what she calls everyone who steps  up to her counter. I’ve always hated to be called “honey” and “sweetheart” by strangers because it seems so phoney. But “dear heart” from Carol as she hands me a slice of ten-year aged white cheddar cheese makes me smile.

dear heart

I told her I wanted to write about her in this blog about nice folks in Pittsburgh. She said, “It’s simple really. I treat everyone as I want to be treated.”

It’s true, tested, and simple. She makes me strive to be a “dear heart.”

I need to introduce Carol to a certain doctor’s receptionist.

Who are the angels living lightly in your life and heart?