We all have the power to influence. And you don’t even need to have charm to exercise it.

A 10-MINUTE WALK from my house is Gyro Park; it has an elevated rocky outcrop from which you can get nice views over the city of Nelson and Kootenay Lake. Sometimes my friend and I take a walk there at night. We take a path that leads through a forest before entering onto the viewpoint. I find it fun to feel my way through a forest in the dark, sort of knowing where to go but always being surprised by a tree root or a loose rock.

There’s this one point on the route that leads to a big support cable under high tension. It holds up a telephone pole. It’s at a painful shin-height so when we’re near it we have to make sure to tread carefully, always saying things like, “it’s around here somewhere…where is it?” Once we were walking in the same area during daylight hours when we passed by this spot. “There’s that friggin’ cable,” I said. My friend replied with, “let’s make our own trail, guide people around it.”

Photo: WarmSleepy

He started grabbing large dead branches from the ground and dragging them, laying them down in a way that led away from the cable. I joined in. We made an obvious trail that steered anyone coming through around the dangerous obstacle. Then we piled up more sticks in front of it to further discourage stray walkers. Nowadays when I walk there I can see a clear trail stamped down by others’ feet. It worked.

I often wonder if others, who’d tripped and hurt their own shins, have noticed and if they’re appreciative. I also think about people who’d never walked there before we made the detour, how to them it’s just “the trail.” I think of all the trails I’ve hiked in my life and those responsible for laying them out. And I think about trails laid down by people like Martin Luther King, Jr. during the American civil rights movement, and by Gandhi during India’s fight for independence.

It may be a big jump from making a little trail in the forest to fighting for the rights of African-Americans, but it’s a good reminder that we all have the power to influence others. And you don’t even need to be in a position of power or a great speaker or leader. You can just be a guy in the woods with a few dead branches.