I love walking in my neighborhood. For the last 6 months I have been on a walking kick, averaging 4-6 miles, five times a week. This is very “UN” Barry like. Allow me to share a few of my thoughts. I like the walk because it is “my” neighborhood. No, I do not know as many neighbors as I should. However, I do receive a number of friendly waves and an occasional, “How are you?”
The streets are hilly, and most of my walks have been ones on a beautiful day, with Carolina Blue skies, contrasted with beautiful green trees. As I walk, I usually spend a minute or so praying for the people in each house. Praying for their needs, their challenges, their fears, their marriages, their kids. I don’t know what is going on behind those closed doors, but God does.
While walking, there is a long hill that I walk down and then I walk past two huge whispering weeping willow trees. Those two trees have become very special to me. At this moment of my journey I am reminded that all of our Spark of Life Retreat attendees are still weeping over their losses. As I pass these trees, I slow down, I touch multiple leaves, I pray for those that are hurting by name and I am reminded in God’s word, “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” It really is a special moment in my walk.
Thursday Night at a Spark of Life retreat can seem very dark. Every one of our guests shares their personal story of why they are attending a grief recovery retreat. I compare it to being in a room with all the shades down.
After I pass by my weeping willow trees, I have to take a huge hill. It is almost symbolic; I keep my head down and I keep moving forward, one small step at a time. So true for each one of our guests at a Spark retreat.
By attending and serving at multiple Spark retreats, I have observed that as early as Friday morning, the shade on that window is raised just slightly and a little light and a little laughter creeps into the room. By Saturday, as our guests are given tools on how to Live Forward, they are putting their presenting loss in context with all the other losses in their lives. I begin to observe smiles, signs of hope and more laughter. It is amazing to observe! Then Sunday comes – a day that seems to bring “real” hope. A day that yes, still might have some weeping, but the hills do not seem so hard to take, the window shade is not pulled down, and there are new friendships built, everlasting friendships. People are living forward and there is a new anticipation to this walk.