by Pam Tinsley
They gather most Saturday mornings at 8 at a cafe near the entrance of a magnificent 700-acre city park. The park has walking trails that wind through dense rainforest-like growth and a 5-Mile Drive, which is closed to vehicles on Saturday mornings.
Rain or shine – though more often rain – several intrepid folk grab a quick cup of coffee before heading out for a brisk walk. After walking, they return to the cafe where several others have arrived in the meantime. There they settle in for another cup of coffee and, most importantly, continuing conversation and fellowship.
These folks initially met through church, and although they may from time to time talk about what’s going on at church, church per se isn’t their focus. Perhaps the opportunity for some exercise in the midst of God’s glorious creation is a reason behind their getting together. Yet, the cafe group consists of non-walkers, too.
I believe the real fruit of the “Saturday Morning Walkers” has shown itself to be community. Together they share stories including vulnerabilities, and these stories have forged a bond that provides love and support to one another in times of illness, adversity and joy.
They celebrated together when one of them married a mutual friend, and the group welcomed her into the weekly gathering. When one individual struggled through years of chemotherapy, they were there, encouraging John with his commitment to walk at least three miles a day. For many months, two men met John at the park each morning before they went to work as he dealt with the draining effects of chemo. He says that it was their “gentle” encouragement that helped him through those seemingly endless dark days -– they would debate whether, if he keeled over, it would be easier to drag him back by his hands or by his feet!
You might say, “But isn’t that what friends do, support and encourage one another?” And, you’re right, it is. Yet, these friends began as acquaintances who walked and chatted, and that fellowship developed into friendship, a friendship which invites others in. And by gathering together on a weekly basis, encouraging and supporting each other in their daily lives, they are joining together with God to make the world – right where they are – a better place!
Photo: Hoh Rain Forest, Wikimedia Commons