Monday night, December 7, Dallas TX. It's cold, damp, and windy, drizzling a fine mist. Not the most auspicious evening to be out and about, if you know Texas drivers. Yet the parking lot of the church is full already, and it's not much past 6:00. People are hurrying in the door with a sense of purpose (or maybe just to get out of the weather). The lobby is full of impatient men and women and many teens. The smell of damp wool fills up all the spaces between the packed-in bodies.
What is the occasion here that has brought so many Dallasites out on a Monday, of all nights? The doors to the sanctuary finally open, and people scramble to squeeze into the pews. We are told we can only save one seat each. The woman beside me has staked out a space on each side of her and does not move to close the gap when she hears this command. It's OK. We have our seats. And the people keep on coming, filling the entire room and spilling out into the lobby.
We're lucky to be here; I just found out about this a day or so ago and was determined to make it, even though the previous night's insomnia has caught up with me. I sink into the fairly comfortable pew, waiting patiently (not something I'm ordinarily very good at). It looks as though soon people will be hanging from the rafters. The room is full to bursting. I'm about to fall asleep, despite the noise. Absently, I watch the slide show that has been playing in a loop for the past few minutes, chatting with my son and my other companions.
A man with a microphone finally steps onto the stage, and the crowd quiets quickly. He says the obligatory words and then proudly introduces the man we've been waiting to see. The applause is generous as Greg Mortenson takes the microphone, grinning widely. His grin is reflected on many of the faces in the audience. Then he begins to speak.