Recently, a parishioner asked me what had been the most pleasant surprise of coming to Columbus. Our family has lived and worked here for almost three years now.
We have enjoyed the benefits of a wonderful Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and inspiring concerts featuring incredible vocal and musical ensembles. We have enjoyed the friendly rivalry of local high schools and the opportunities to sit in the stands for gymnastics, football, basketball and countless marching band competitions.
I have personally enjoyed the proximity to the Hoosier National Forest for meditative hikes in beautiful settings. There are many ways I might have answered this important question. But an unexpected answer arose on March 4.
The previous day, a young woman, Jackie (Kleine) Watts, had gone missing in our community. I was moved by the quick responses of caring individuals to help this family in need. An event was organized at our church, First United Methodist, for that Saturday morning. Fliers were made with the intention of blanketing the community and surrounding areas in the search for this missing woman.
About 20 people gathered at the church. They were dressed in warm clothing, prepared to go door to door distributing fliers. They came with staple guns and masking tape, prepared to post fliers to every bulletin board, storefront window and telephone pole they could. They came ready for action. But as we gathered, a news conference was being held. Together we watched in silence as sad news was revealed. Watts had been found, but had died. We prayed and wept together for this loss in our community.
I asked those present how many knew Jackie. It looked like about a third of the group. Another third knew the family. That meant that the rest didn’t know this woman or her family, but had come out because they saw a family in need and wanted to help.
As I walked out of the church that morning, I pondered this kindness. How touching it was that people gathered on a lovely Saturday morning, prepared to give their time and energy to help a family in their time of need. This is an admirable thing about this community.
I walked from the church to the Viewpoint Bookstore downtown where there was an event sponsored by the local Islamic Society. With so much misunderstanding and misinformation in our nation, there were thoughtful people coming together to dispel the false perceptions and remind us of the beauty in our diversity. The basement was filled with laughter, smiles and neighbors greeting one another. One of the things to appreciate about this community is the wonderful diversity and the ongoing work to build strong connections throughout our city.
When I think about the unexpected surprises and the things that I appreciate about Columbus, that morning will rise to the surface for me. It was a reminder of the kindness toward one another, the celebration and appreciation of our diversity and the ways in which our simple actions make this a strong and vibrant community.
The Rev. Howard Boles is pastor at First United Methodist Church in Columbus. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.