My walk home from work yesterday was hot. Clothes sticking to you, arms glistening, sun pounding you into the ground kind of hot.
The heat index was 110 degrees. My first thought as I walked outside through the office door was that I just wanted to be home.
Yet, on the way there I had an unexpected opportunity to slow down and appreciate the importance of building community — no matter the hot, sticky weather.
About halfway home (sometime after my polo shirt was seriously soaked through with sweat ) I was stopped by a voice calling out to me. Looking to my left I saw an older man sitting on his porch, holding a cool glass while gesturing at me.
The man didn't waste any time with introductions of pleasantries. As soon as I had walked close enough to hear more clearly he started to speak at a mile a minute, as if he thought I would walk away if he even took a breath. In truth, if he had given me the chance I probably would have blamed the heat and kept on my way.
But thanks to his persistence I found myself transported in time and space.
Suddenly it was the turn of the 20th century and I was standing on a bluff in a Paiute Indian reservation somewhere in eastern Nevada. Joseph (as the man on the porch would tell me his name later) was next to me, pointing down the bluff to his father off in the distance. The scraggly man, clothed in a mix of well-worn late 19th century American denim and traditional dress was standing next to a woman - Joseph's future mother.
Even from our spot at the top of the bluff you could tell this was Joseph's parent’s first meeting. The two figures body language was awkward. They didn’t seem to know what to say or do in each other's presence. The meeting easily could have ended quickly with a curt goodbye as they both went about their day.
Yet, just as Joseph's future father was about to mount his horse to leave there was a sudden scurry.
From the east a slow, but deliberate trail of dust was making its way towards the would-be couple. With an incredible quickness Joseph's parents were on his father's horse at full gallop away from whatever was headed their direction. It soon became clear why. The trail of dust was a cougar that had come down from the hillside with less than friendly intentions. Thanks to the horse’s speed the couple was soon free of danger, headed towards the nearest house to relax from the experience and, eventually, get to know one another.
Joseph turned to look me in the face. The desert vanished. We were back on his porch looking out at the empty street. “I wouldn’t be here without that nasty cougar,” he said. “Isn’t that amazing?”
It definitely was. And at that moment I couldn’t help but think how I would have missed hearing about it in my hurry to get home and out of the heat.
Maybe that’s Christian community in a nutshell: sometimes uncomfortable, but definitely rewarding. And always worth slowing our lives down to build and experience.