Sometimes I feel like the only person who hates getting wet when it rains. The instant a cloud appears, I scramble to find my super-sized green-and-white umbrella. As soon as the first raindrop falls, my portable shed pops up.

Last week, I was all set to make my rounds on Durham’s 9th Street, when a cloudburst poured rain steadily for about 20 minutes. Even the security of my umbrella wasn’t enough to make me step out of my car. While I was sitting there waiting for the shower to pass over, I witnessed an amazing sight. Although few people had raincoats or umbrellas, no one was rushing or scurrying for shelter. One woman even took off her shoes and splashed through the puddles. As far as I could tell, I was the only fraidy-cat cowering in my car.

At last I made my way from my car to Francesca’s Dessert Café for my flavor of the week(it may be wet and icky outside, but I can always eat ice cream). While I savored my tasty treat, watching passersby happily strolling through the sprinkles, a friend stopped to chat. She was dripping with water–and dripping on me.

“Is it my imagination,” I asked her, “or am I one of the few people who’s using an umbrella today?”

She laughed. “You’re still a wimp when it rains. You need to dump the umbrella sometimes and experience the joy of a summer rain.”

All this time, mind you, I’ve been taking pride in being a free spirit and occasionally living on the edge. Yet I had never embraced the experience of walking in the rain. Maybe I’ve been living too sheltered a life, I thought. Still, I wasn’t brave enough to experiment in public.

But when I got home, I got out of my car without my umbrella. The combination of the warm humidity and the cool rain on my face and arms was unbelievably soothing. I even took the time to walk around my yard, looking at the flowers in full bloom and savoring the sensations that, until then, I had always missed.