Although this past summer was overflowing with unwanted restraints and canceled plans, I still mourn the summer months where long daylight hours carelessly danced over the earth. The summer season is a unique time because it provides people, especially students, with freedom; it is as if someone has attached wings to our bodies and given us the space to fly anywhere we wish to go. I felt an indescribable sense of exhilaration when I accepted a summer job with Wilderness Expeditions three years ago. It was time to pave my own path; it was time to touch the sky.
Wilderness Expeditions is a backpacking outfitter based in Salida, Colorado. I worked as a mountain guide there for two summers and guided groups of people into the backcountry of Colorado every week. The primary goal was to summit a mountain, or at least that’s what I thought was the objective of my job. Shame would creep into my soul when I had to deliver the news to a group that we were not going to reach the summit. A failure to summit was most commonly a result of dangerous weather conditions, which is something that is completely out of any human’s control, yet I felt like I had disappointed everyone.
With every week that I spent sleeping under the cover of aspen trees, I slowly discovered that my job was not to summit mountains. The purpose of my job was to walk alongside people as we all traversed toward restoration and redemption in this life. The heart of my job was to practice walking with others in the present moment. With each step my dusty hiking boots took, I learned that the practice of walking transcends the physical realm. I walked with people through anger; I confronted insecurities with others as I wrestled with my own; I journeyed with people through the lies that always seem to distract from the truth; I danced with people in the joy of that truth; I marched with people in the face of hate and injustice.
The common thread through all of these encounters is the presence of another person. To be in community with other people is a gift that cultivates movement and growth despite the paralyzing effects of life. When one person is unable to lift their head and face the emotions of the present day, someone else is there to gently direct them to the light.
Perhaps to be human is to simply be with others in any capacity that we are able: emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. To be human is to journey to the deepest valleys and to the highest heights with other humans, and to repeat that pattern until we cannot move any further. It is vital to our existence that we allow ourselves to be in community with others; dependency is not always synonymous with weakness. A beautiful and glorious thing happens when we acknowledge that humanity is closer to restoration when we are in community with one another.
The sun will set tonight and the moon will dance in the darkness once again. As light is restored and all of creation is called to rise, we have an opportunity to walk a different path than the one we chose the day before. How will you walk more towards restoration when the sunlight seeps through your window? How will you allow the power of presence to redirect your intentions with the community around you?