Taking a walk in September

Image: Highland

Last week I published a short post titled, And so it is September. I subsequently used it as the introduction for a longer piece which appeared in the town's weekly, The Concord Journal. Local faith leaders rotate authorship of a column titled, Voices of Faith, and this week was my turn.
Taking a walk in September

The weather's been turning my head and heart from grieving summer's end, teasing me to an affair with an autumn not yet quite here.

This season between seasons sidles up, takes my hand and walks me from a warm summer's sun to shorter days, a cooler clime: time to ready a soul for fall's hues and hints of winter.

I take this walk each year when all paths lead to the place where summer is no longer and winter's arms beckon an embrace.

I've walked this way so many times and so have you: looking, hoping for, finding spring's promise to courage us down the road.

I don’t walk that road alone and I hope you, too, have company on this annual trek. The first pages of Genesis remind that it’s not good for us to be alone and I walk every day with God whose company never fails.

But God is not my only companion along the way. I move from season to season in the company of parishioners, friends and family. So many and so strong are these ties that even when by myself I don’t think of myself as alone - and that is a great blessing.

Driving through Concord last week, I noticed on my right a group of eight high school students walking down the street, animated by what I’d guess was conversation about the first days of school and the beginning of a new academic year. Their mood was clearly happy, upbeat and, perhaps most importantly, mutually shared.

Then the traffic slowed, giving me a moment to look to my left where one lone teen made his way in the same easterly direction as the group across the street.

I wondered if the group noticed the loner. I had little doubt that the loner noticed the group even though he kept his eyes trained directly ahead. Loners, you see, are experts at appearing oblivious to the exclusion they inhabit. I know. It’s been a long time now, but this same expertise was once mine.

It doesn’t matter so much that there are many possible reasons for the street-wide separation I observed. Whether we’re in our teens or our eighties, we all have and maintain our self-preserving reasons for being “apart from” rather than “together with.” What does matter is that separation and exclusion can so easily wound, deeply, regardless of why we tolerate the distances between ourselves and others.

Wounds, of course, can heal but they often leave scars. Even decades later, a heart can bear the scars of being the one left out. Those scars might no longer bring pain but they are sensitive to scenes like the one I’m describing here.

In a perfect world, no one would be excluded and all would be welcomed to a place among the many. In a perfect world, no one would need to walk on the lonely side of the street. Such a world may be beyond the reach of any one or even all of us but each of us can reach out, invite in and welcome to our circle those whose path is wide with room and wanting for company.

Since the dawn of creation it’s been true: it’s not good for us to be alone. From childhood to elderhood, we long for companions on our journey.

As we walk with God through these September days, in this season between seasons, let’s look across whatever streets we travel and see who might welcome our company as we courage one another down the road.

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