Unlike many airlines that nickel and dime their customers by charging $25 or more each way for a single piece of check-in luggage, Southwest Airlines has a well-beloved policy of allowing the first two check-in bags for each customer to fly free, as long as they meet various reasonable dimension and weight requirements. This particular policy had a subtle but profound influence on my trip to the Feast of Tabernacles. Being a person who is involved in many responsibilities and is not particularly skilled at packing light despite much practice in packing, I knew that I would fully meet my luggage allotment. Not only that, but I had sent my viola to be driven with the rest of our party because I knew that I would be carrying too much luggage as it was. The other member of our party that flew with me, however, one of my close friends, decided to drastically change what she packed because more was allowed, a move she later regretted.
After arriving in Denver after a pleasant flight, pleasant except for an unhappy baby in the row just behind me and to my right and a bit of turbulence, we retrieved our bags and set about to find the RTD bus into downtown Denver, which on Sundays leaves once an hour at about ten minutes shy of the hour, which we barely made on account of having gone to the wrong side of the terminal at first. When we finally arrived, the bus was more crowded than the half-full plane, and was a pleasant drive, taking about an hour or so, before finally dropping us off at the Greyhound Station downtown. For those who, like me, have ever ridden on a Greyhound bus, there is some awareness that bus stations are invariably in sketchy neighborhoods, and Denver is no exception to this rule. As I am rather experienced at long distance luggage marathons, I was able to roll my suitcase and carry my other bags without trouble, even if it was a heavy burden, but my compatriot was really struggling with her burden, so I had to politely wait while she could catch up with me on several occasions, until we went the two or three blocks to the where the rental car location was located on Broadway. Along the way I had the chance to talk with another fellow struggling with a heavy burden without a roller, in this case it was a man of apparently transient means who had been unable to store his belongings at the St. Francis’ along the way, and was on his way to meet a relative to have him store his belongings before going off to a court date tomorrow where there was a possibility of being thrown in jail. I wished him luck on his court appearance; he was a gracious man and friendly man, for whatever struggles he was facing, and we both went on our ways. Also, apparently my friend and I were able to blend in with the local transient population so well that my friend was told that we would definitely be able to find a home and we were wished good luck in a particularly ironic fashion.
After picking up the rental car I drove the three-odd hours to Steamboat Springs, passing along some beautiful country, with stunning vistas, dramatic colors, and little creeks that are given grand names like the Colorado River. In many ways, the countryside reminded me of the area near Mount Hood and the rest of the Cascade range, except that the trees were somewhat different. Of course, being the sort of person who schedules things perhaps a bit too ambitiously, last night we were a little late to both the choir practice and the opening service, the first because we got lost in the Steamboat Grand trying to find the main ballroom, which required a circuitous walk around the building, and the second because rushing to help out with the grocery shopping for our party led me to have too little time to eat and prepare for the opening service, along with waiting a bit for the ladies of my party to get ready. It was a good service, and the opening music montage was very well done also, as was the fellowship I was able to do with people I knew slightly or did not know at all, except that we had various matters of service together. I met the “twin” of one of the young people in my party, who will be one of my students for Sabbath School, and who was happy to know that she had my approval (if it mattered) to attend the rest of the activities with the teens like she wanted, and I also got to meet the father of an adorable little kid who happened to work on sound and who would likely be doing the sound when I direct the Children’s Choir, so it was good to meet him, as we have church business to discuss.
Our opening service in Steamboat Springs had a striking and remarkable message from an elderly minister in our church, Mr. Berg (who, coincidentally, also composed one of the pieces for special music this year, and helped clarify some of the message of his song in choir practice). In a rambling discourse that included a lot of scriptures without a great deal of logical connection and fleshing out, and that mixed a message of prophetic hope with a pessimistic concern about the state of the world and the people in it, there was one part of the message that stood out in particular, and that was his fierce rebuke of the Church of God for its lack of love, for its unwillingness to treat others as family members, for its inability to go to brethren in seeking reconciliation. The message itself seemed to be heavy-handed, as if those who were obeying God were sure to find success, something that strikes me as a bit naive, at least if one does not include the aspect of receiving the answer to one’s wish so long as it is within God’s will and the will of others involved, and the person who was sitting next to me and I were both hostile to the implication that prolonged difficulties with other brethren were due to a lack of interest in reconciliation on our parts. That said, it did make me think yet again about how in life we all drag our baggage along with us, and how our ability to show love and respect and concern to others can be harmed by the fact that we have such damages to deal with. How long until our lives and relationships are healed, for we cannot put the world back together if we are not put together ourselves.