chasing catIt’s 2 A.M., there’s a killer on the loose, and it’s up to me to catch him…

No, that’s not the opening line to my new thriller novel. That exact situation literally happened to me recently. Now, I really wish I could leave it at that and have you believe I’m some badass secret agent. But I feel obliged to reveal a couple other minor details about that night.

Namely, that Killer is the name of my aunt and uncle’s cat. And that the reason he was on the loose was because I had too much to drink and accidentally let him out of the house.

Sigh. When I put it like that, my James Bond-esqueness goes down the toilet, eh?

It had all started several Molson Canadians earlier at my cousin Catherine’s wedding in the agricultural community of Kintail, Ontario. True to her rural roots, Catherine held the reception in her parents’ barn. The poor sheep and cows got very little rest that night, as the entire community shook the 100-plus-year-old building with beer-fuelled foot stomping and good ol’ fashioned farmland frivolity.

Ashley and I had packed a couple sleeping bags and our dancing shoes and made the two-hour drive to the festivities earlier that day with no clear idea on where we would be staying. I wasn’t worried. The area is peppered with members of my extended family, and I’m no stranger to Huron County hospitality.  I knew we’d find a couch, cabin or corner to curl up in without too much trouble.

Sure enough, within the first hour of arriving, my cousin Mike told us that his parents were staying at their cabin, so their house was available. We called dibs, and with the accommodations question out of the way, we proceeded to hootenanny the night away on the dance floor.

Toward the end of the evening, my Uncle Shawn (Mike’s dad) got to chatting with me and Ashley. “So where are you guys staying?” he bellowed as Tim McGraw blared in the background.

“Uhhh…” I replied. “Your place?”

“Oh good!” Shawn said, completely unaware—and unfazed—that he had folks staying at his house. “Well, make yourself at home!”

Good ol’ country living.

My brother dropped us off at Shawn and Laurie’s later that night. My feet hurt, my head was spinning and the only thing I wanted to do was crawl into bed. The cat, Killer, had other ideas.

Opening the door, the stupid animal bolted outside. Having grown up in the country, I wasn’t too stressed about a cat spending a beautiful summer’s night outdoors. My city-slicking girlfriend felt otherwise. “You have to catch him,” she insisted.

And that’s how I found myself chasing a cat at two in the morning. Of course, whenever I got within reaching distance of Killer, he’d bolt. I kept this nonsense up for the better part of an hour—unable to catch the cat, unable to convince Ashley that the friggin’ thing was fine and that we should go to bed.

My night ended with me in my suit pants and dress shirt crawling under a pine tree in the front yard, using my cell phone as a flashlight and calling out “Here, Killer! Come on, Killer!”

Covered in dirt and spider webs, I conceded defeat and went to bed, assuring Ashley that our feline fugitive would be all right.

And was he? Well, I’ll let a true Canadian musical icon answer that question:

Why community matters

Simple(ton) Living by Josh MartinThere’s a good reason why “Lean on your team” is the first lesson in my free ebook, Going on a Bear Hunt: Five things cancer taught me about overcoming obstacles. Whether it’s a spare bed, a listening ear or an extra pair of hands to help me move, I’ve been fortunate to be part of an amazing community of friends and family growing up. Having a supportive and caring community is incredibly important.

Researchers infinitely more qualified than me agree. In fact, studies show that having a real sense of community can literally make you live longer. Longevity expert Dan Buettner led a team of researchers in search of the communities around the world that enjoy the longest, healthiest lives. These healthy hotspots have several things in common, including—yup—strong community bonds. Check out Dan’s TED talk, How to live to be 100+, to learn more.

Finally, we’re social animals. Having community adds joy and fun to our lives. To quote George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air: “life’s better with company.”

But community bonds can be tough to form these days. Individualism is a hallmark of modern Western society. Meanwhile, our car culture insulates us from the world around us as we go whizzing through neighbourhoods. And our hectic lives leave little room for meaningful socializing, favouring “likes” on Facebook to quality interactions.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Friendship should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into corners. Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command.”

Community matters. Seek it out. Nurture it. That might mean making a habit of inviting friends over for a weekly games night. Or joining a rec hockey league or a Dungeons & Dragons club. Or even something as simple as making an effort to smile and wave hello to your neighbours.

Because, hey, we’re all in this together.

Like these stories? You’ll find a whole whack of them — more than 50 in fact — in my book Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.