No, I’m not from Texas. I’ve just liked that greeting for several years—ever since I was a youth leader way back when. Renée, a teen leader and a great friend of the other kids in our group always greeted everyone with her signature, “Howdy!”

One night our group traveled in a caravan of vehicles through twisting hilly roads to a place in the Ozarks. Renée and several other friends were in a car with another leader at the end of our procession. Somehow they became separated from the rest of our group.

We leaders convened quietly about our concerns, but the kids figured it out. We paced nervously around our campsite, built the campfire and set up the tents. I pulled out some food. Teenagers are always hungry, but no one ate anything.

Kids huddled in small groups. Firelight illumined their worried faces. Everyone wondered where the others were and what to do. This was in the days before cell phones.

The weight of responsibility hung heavy on us leaders. How and where did we lose them? Did they go off a cliff? Were they hurt in a ditch somewhere? I heard they were low on gas—did they run out? Who was next in line to them? Did they see anything? What should we do? Should we go back and look for them?

Our male team leader had enough. He grabbed his flashlight and headed for his van.

At that moment another vehicle’s tires ground the gravel of the parking area and car doors slammed. Renée’s cheerful, “Howdy” rang out.

Tense shoulders relaxed. Kids jumped up with smiling faces. Renée and the others stepped out of the darkness and into the firelight of our warm circle.

The team leader patted the driver’s back. “Thought we’d lost you.”

Our group immediately peppered the wanderers with questions. Explanations were offered about losing sight of the last car and taking the wrong turn. They eventually found some help at a local gas station and soon were back on the right road.

Relief washed over me. They were safe. They were here.

Stomach knots untwisted. Kids lined up for hot dogs and s’mores. Relieved laughter erupted all around as the teens returned to their usual banter.

Perhaps you’re feeling separated from the safety of friends who care about you. Or perhaps you’re worried about someone else who separated himself or herself from the safety of your group or family.

Whichever it is and wherever you are—traveling or at home, I hope you’ll find a warm welcome here in the circle of this light.

Travel Light,
P.S. Renée, wherever you are now–Howdy!
©2015 SuZan Klassen