The Call to Save a Life

I love stories of kindness. I know that might seem saccharine and hallmark-y. But being the recipient of an altruistic kidney donation over seven years ago, I know all too well that there are rock stars of humanity among us.

That’s why I’m drawn to this lovely story about a German woman that visited the U.S. to hike the Pacific Coast Trail.

Katharina Groene started her trek in May and planned to hike from Mexico to Canada. Far into her journey, at a mountain pass through the Cascades, she met Nancy Abel. Katharina didn’t know it at the time, but that was an encounter she’d never forget.

Nancy, an avid hiker from Washington, warned Katharina that a dangerous winter storm was approaching. But Katharina forged ahead, Cheryl-Strayed-author-of-Wild style. She was determined to finish her hike.

At home, Nancy could have continued to carry on with her day, tackled her to do list, and forgotten about her brief encounter with a determined hiker. Instead, she worried. She checked the weather reports. She worried some more. And just as she had feared, the weather became extreme.

Katharina was deep in the mountains, her tarp blew away, and she lost cell phone service. But she managed to leave an apologetic message to her friends and family that she would die on the trail.

But she didn’t die.

Because Nancy Abel’s kindness and concern prompted action. She called the Sheriff’s office to report that a woman she didn’t really know was in an undetermined location and might be in danger. A search and rescue team from the Sheriff’s office took action too. And they eventually found Katharina—cold, wet, hungry, and afraid.

Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist, would call Nancy’s level of compassion “empathic concern,” which moved her to help someone she hardly knew. Altruistic kidney donors are off the charts in empathic concern.

We can all imagine worrying about and helping a dear friend or family member, right? Because they exist within our circle. But so often, beyond our circle, we separate ourselves from others and don’t see the connection between us as a whole.

Think about it. Nancy’s call (and skilled pilots) saved Katharina’s life. Then Nancy invited her grateful, new friend to stay at her home until she was able to return to Germany. Well, of course she did.

Wouldn’t it be a better world if we all extended our circle of love?

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