Three weeks ago, the day before my wedding, my friends sweet-talked me into a nail salon where lovely people soaked, massaged, lotioned, and manicured me, gently trimming and painting my nails.

This morning, while I walloped crawling mosquitoes off of my vulnerable feet, my husband hacked off haphazard slices of my toenails with his Leatherman.

It’s funny how quickly circumstances can change.

Over the past month, I’ve gone from setting up borrowed glassware in a hot Rent-a-Tent in Dorr; to striding down a church aisle in white lace; to packing into a van with twelve teenagers, my new husband, and no radio; to whimpering my way up a steep mountain pass to 8,200 feet.

The view at the top of 8,200 feet is lovely. But people are lovelier.

In the month of June, I spent far too much time succumbing to clickbait and “See More” comment sections, investing hours in attempts at empathy that resulted in desperation and hollowness. News headlines breed violence and corruption. Social media conversations, even among my friends, spawn condescension and antipathy. I would scroll, and I would cry.

But perhaps a dialogue box isn’t the best path to empathy.

When you spend three days surrounded by nearly all the people you love in the world, and six nights in the wilderness with a bunch of kids you’ve never met, and three weeks living out of a van with your large, impatient, wonderful husband, you start to believe a lot more in the beauty of humanity.

Planning a wedding is expensive and stressful and generally not recommended. But Mia and Rachel and Justin drove from St. Louis and Chicago and San Antonio to rip Hobby Lobby moss and buy cheese plates. Aunts and uncles made lime water, told stories, and set off fireworks. Leah showed up with twenty minutes of warning to help Mom buy flowers on the morning of the wedding. Derek played guitar, sang, AND left with Kirsten in the middle of the wedding to go buy more beer.*

Teenagers are loud, usually hungry, and it’s ill-advised to go on a honeymoon with twelve of them in tow. But Chris and Alex pumped water for hours while the rest of you wanted only to pass from this world. James talked about musicals with you for eight out of the thirteen miles on your hike. Anna blew your mind on the eighth day of your trip with an out-of-this-world secret singing voice that she’d been hiding from all of you the whole time. Brendan acted out The Lego Movie in its entirety, in mime, with more energy than the animated characters in the film itself, while all of you peed your pants laughing in your hammocks.**

An under-planned road trip across a country where you don’t have cell service is not on the list of “Great Ways to Begin Your Marriage” that is handed out at couples therapy. But Brent climbed behind you all the way to the top of The Notch, grabbing your ThermaRest with two hands every time your foot slipped through the sandy footholds and you started sobbing again. He didn’t mind that you had to take five-minute breaks every two minutes to re-attempt breathing. And he didn’t hesitate to whack away some of your toenails so they didn’t hurt so much in your boots.

It’s beautiful when your friends pamper you in the city.
It’s beautiful when your husband pampers you in the backcountry.
It’s beautiful when your campers serve each other without hesitation or complaint.

I’m not living in poverty. I’m not a victim of much. I haven’t experienced a natural disaster or a famine. My brain knows every day that I have so much for which to be thankful. But I’m grateful to have rediscovered the goodness of the world through the beautiful people that have walked through my life since the last time I wrote.

People are not perfect. People are people, and some are worse than others, I suppose. I’m not always sure about my philosophy on that. I do know we’re capable of terrible terrible things. And we’re also capable of some of the most beautiful. I’ll keep praying for more of that.

*If your name wasn’t listed, please assume we don’t value your contribution, and also we hate you.

**Names changed

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