There's a point at which the relationship that two people have with each other changes. Sometimes it's after they've been friends for a few years. Sometimes it's through particular shared experience. Sometimes it's the result of embarking on an adventure together.
Last weekend I undertook an adventure ~ an experience that was an adventure, and at the same time a very particular experience that I had the privilege of sharing with some of my colleagues (and I feel honored to have been part of this adventure with them).
So, here's what we did: one of my pastor friends convinced eleven other Lutheran Pastors, myself included (we call ourselves the Faster Pastors), that it would be a good idea for us to run the Ragnar Relay ~ a 189 mile relay through the Colorado Mountains.
We did this because it sounded fun … and also because it gave us an excuse to encourage people to make financial contributions. We have been encouraging people to pledge and give money to the ELCA MalariaCampaign in support of our efforts.
So, to raise money for malaria prevention and treatment, we committed to spending 48 hours (or so) in close proximity with one another (six or seven people in a mini van for the weekend). We committed to encouraging and supporting one another in our celebrations and in our struggles. We committed to looking at each other, and listening to each other, and smelling each other. We committed to eating and drinking together ~ for these couple days, we've made a commitment to being community together.
Because we made these commitments, we had the opportunity to have an amazing experience together. But what was more fun (for me at least) was to tell people what I was doing, and then watch for the look of surprise or amazement or “you know you're crazy, right?” on their face … at which I had the opportunity to tell them that we were raising money for the ELCA Malaria Initiative.
See, malaria kills approximately one person every 60 seconds … but it's tremendously preventable and treatable. $10 buys a medicated bed net that prevents mosquitoes from infecting a person while they sleep. And when people are infected, $2 buys a treatment.
So we did this crazy thing to raise money for malaria relief. During the course of the entire event … not just the 29+ hours we were running, but the time before when we were raising money and awareness … we were building community.
Sure, there was the community in the vans, and the community build with and among the other participants. But hopefully we've also built community with people across the globe ~ children of G-d whose malady is more obvious than our own maladies.
And hopefully our efforts have gone a little way toward relieving the malady of malaria in other parts of the world, and the malady of affluenza, wealth, and greed here where we live.