The other day someone asked me if I was going to finish writing about my June hiking trip. It’s true, I never concluded the adventure in writing. Back in June, when I stepped off the trail and into the sunny parking lot, I thought it was the end of the trip. In actuality, the step turned out to be only a pause, a short rest, to catch my breath before continuing down another trail.
I have been “hiking” all summer. Each smaller adventure an extension of the mountain hike with different landscapes to view and different people to hike with. “The Summer of Adventure” has truly lived up to its name. I have experienced many wonderful, challenging adventures. From finding the wonder in small, daily tasks that required great feats of patience and faith to fearlessly jumping out of perfectly good planes with my grandmother.
Reflecting back, something stands out greater than all the adventures. Each adventure acted as a catalyst for community. My summer days were graced by unique and beautiful people who allowed me to visit special places and belong to groups of special people.
Take Kat, for instance. I met Kat and her family at Galehead Hut, 3,800 ft high the White Mountains. Her clear blue, twinkling eyes and her warm welcoming smile invited us (fellow hikers) to join her in celebrating the completion of hiking all of NH’s 48- 4,000 footers. Her family had packed a bottle of wine to celebrate the accomplishment and the bottle was passed around and poured into chipped, plastic camp cups. With plastic cups raised, we all joined in a song led by the hut croo, “For she’s a jolly good hiker. For she’s a jolly good hiker, for she’s a jolly good hikerrrrrrrrrr, which nobody can deny.” As I swallowed my sip of wine, I was overwhelmed by the special moment and how strangers had suddenly become a family (even if for a moment) sharing in Kat’s accomplishment and inspiring us to hike higher mountains. Communities do that. They celebrate with each other and inspire each other to greater things.
We continued our hike the next day and cleared the tree line sometime mid morning, that’s when we heard trumpet music. (Trumpet music 3,000 feet up on top of a mountain sounds beautifully out of place.) It didn’t take us long to find the source of the music. Mexican Buddah and Honey Bear, two thru-hikers, one with a guitar and one with a trumpet, had stopped for lunch, to rest, and to make beautiful music. Surrounded by breathtaking views, the wind as their accompaniment, and the White Mountains as their audience, we stopped to chat with them. I remember thinking how absolutely wonderful the meeting was. I felt like Alice in Wonderland stumbling upon the most interesting of characters running after the White Rabbit (or in my case the next White Mountain.) Communities embrace one another and respect where each person has been. Communities are made up of many different, uniquely talented people who share a love of a common interest. And communities benefit from those unique talents and gifts which each member has to offer. Mexican Buddah and Honey Bear’s music was a gift to us and their serenade was a reminder to continue on what ever journey you find yourself on but to remember to stop once in awhile to take in the views.
Towards the end of the summer, I had an opportunity to revisit a community that was forged and formed 20 years ago. My 20th year high school reunion of the EWG Scarlet Knights. So much of who I am now was shaped in those few years of high school (the good and the bad.) The impact of those years and the people I shared them with have somehow come along with me like no other time in my life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked through the doors of the function room. Would I remember people? Would they remember me? What would they remember about me? All of my anxious thoughts dissolved when I was greeted with smiles and big hugs. I know not everyone has a good experience at their high school reunions but mine…well, mine was awesome and I think that has to do with the special people that were in my class.
I was especially impacted by one of my classmates who worked so hard to make the reunion happen. She reached out to all of us, kept sending Facebook messages and reminders, and genuinely made you feel special and you were wanted there. She went out of her way to interview former teachers and collect pictures for a slide show. She pulled people in from the outside and strengthened the community from the inside. Community takes leaders who are willing to put in the work and remind its members that they are special and needed.
I could write all day about all the other people I met, the friendship formed, relationships which were strengthened, and the communities I was welcomed in. I had set out to be intentionally adventurous and it happened in more ways than one. The last adventure of the summer started where it all started.
My last adventure was shared with my most important and most intimate community. My family-my husband and three beautiful children. We were in the White Mountains, hiking on a trail that was the complete opposite of the trail in June. This trail was wide, flat and there were no inclines. The weather was perfect for hiking and exploring. We stalled along the trail watching chipmunks eat mushrooms and searching for heart shaped rocks. It was completely peaceful and I felt so loved and blessed to be sharing it with these four beautiful souls. These four people show me unconditional love on a daily basis. They make me want to be a better mother, wife and Christ-follower. These four people make the path (whatever it looks like) worth taking. All communities should be like that. Loving each other and making the trail easier. They should walk in grace and extend grace to the other members. Communities should encourage each other to be better each and every day.
As summer of 2016 closes, I am committing myself to community. I want to build up the communities I belong to by using the talents and gifts I have been given. I want to embrace my community members by encouraging them to use their unique gifts and callings. I want to help people find their value and their purpose in life to make the world a better place. And I want to keep hiking. I want to hike with my communities in truth, grace and most of all love. To celebrate with them and mourn with them and hike beside them on whatever path we find ourselves on.