On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, I ended up taking walks in downtown Ann Arbor. It was a small thing, but it transformed my whole weekend.
As Friday evening arrived, I realized it was time for me to step away from the smartphone for a while. Perhaps you were following along. . . The news was wild last week. Every single day, there seemed to be some sort of bombshell; some outrageously inappropriate, dangerous speech; or some person voted off of a White House island. I shouldn’t even say or. I should say and. Each day had multiple iterations of these.
After following all of that, I put the news away for a while. I decided to take a walk downtown and on the University of Michigan campus. That truly transformed my weekend.
People were walking along the sidewalks and eating in outdoor cafés. Folks were laughing. All ages were present. People were talking to each other, including complete strangers. That first night, I ended up having four conversations with people I had never met. The energy was alive. It really filled me.
And my town is no paragon of perfection. People struggle here too. In fact, half of the conversations I had Friday night were precisely about that. The occasion of being present downtown and on campus allowed us to talk openly about this. These realities need to be shared and shifted.
Present among it all, recognizing its gifts and its challenges, I realized how deeply I feel called to Ann Arbor as a place. I feel so alive when I am in the presence of the people who live in this place.
It is a gift when place calls us.
How often do we let ourselves feel this — deep, rich connection to a place? How often do we seek it out?
Perhaps too often, place can become a dull backdrop to the rat race we run. Gotta be here. . . Gotta be there. . . I have this deadline. . . And that deadline. At times, it fades as we get stuck in our own heads, ruminating about the news, anxious about our inner conflicts — unaware of our bodies, unaware of nature, unaware of each other.
But when we are awake to it,
A place can call us to gratitude.
A place can call us to collective action.
A place can summon us toward one another.
And there are times when we need it to transform us.