Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Last 6 Months in, I'm sorry, 15 Minutes?


Reflection on the Mid-Year Retreat
Some of the things I've been thinking about lately include my faith life, what my plans for after Franciscan Outreach Volunteers include, my discernment for my vocation (married or religious life), my relationships, or lack there of, with guests, and being caught up in Netflix dramas or Broadway productions or PBS Masterpiece Classics.  I don't imagine myself a real contemplative, or exceedingly reflective, but I do find that I ask myself many questions throughout the day, on any one of the aforementioned topics, but also on little things that may just as easily slip my mind.  Those are always the best.

As a whole, our community recently finished our Mid-Year Retreat.  You know how at retreats you spend "X" amount of time reflecting on "X" subject and how it influenced you or brought you here today?  Mine came soon after arriving to our snow-globe of a retreat site (it was lovely: outside of the city, trees surrounding the building, squirrels frantically digging at tree feet).  We were supposed to reflect on the previous six months of our lives, how we feel/felt, how we've grown, then create some artistic representation of the last six months...?!  Six months is a very long time to reflect over a 10-15 min time frame, and I'm not exactly one to keep my mind from wandering.  *At this point I would like to concede that this was, in fact, one of my favorite parts of the retreat, and I greatly value opportunities such as this.*

Sara & Kristen cooking for the community
So, I closed my eyes and rested my forehead over my hands and just sat there, face down, letting my mind kind of do its meandering in and out of the prompt.  I'd like to say a flood of thoughts came rushing to my memory, all in a neat, tidy, and chronological fashion and they were all so wonderful to recall, but let's be serious...that's not what happened.  Again, six months of memories is a lot!  It was a blur, a melting pot of leaving my hot and humid college town in Texas, driving 17ish hours in a Clampett-mobile (90 year old grandma included), meeting 12 new roommates, starting work the day after arriving, the smell of burning a 60 serving pot of pasta, and the endless amount of yogurt to sort boils over in my memory.  Hundreds of new faces, hundreds of new names, oodles upon oddles of facial expressions.  The image that kept coming to the forefront of my mind, the clearest image I could assemble, was a sincere smile on a man who regularly walks through the doors of the Marquard Center soup kitchen.  That was it.  I mean, not it, but it was probably the most poignant.  Why?  Why that smile on that face on that man?  I never had a particularly deep connection with him.  I've seen many smiles through the doors of the Marquard Center.  I've chatted with him, but also with others on numerous occasions, so what makes this image so memorable?

I realized that what I was remembering was a little thing that could just as easily slip my mind.  But it wasn't the smile.  I got to see happiness.  No, it was much more than that.  I got to witness a deep, true, and totally joy-filled moment.  It was sincere, unafraid, and unembarrassed.  Why did he smile in such a manner?  The reason seems trivial, but it's actually quite endearing.  He asked me to play some songs on YouTube that he thought I should hear, that he would educate me on music history.  We talked about groups and songs that I know because of my parents, like "Carry on My Wayward Son" by Kansas, my mom's class song in high school, or "Shambala" by three Dog Night, a group my dad educated me about when I was in high school. I'm slowly beginning to understand why it has impacted me the way it did.  See, when I was describing my art project to my community on our retreat, I began to feel my throat constrict as tears gathered.  Unexplainable at the time, but the more I think about it, the more clear my emotions become.
Mid-Year Retreat

I understood the joy I felt based on something that reminds me of people I love dearly, with whom I already share a deep connection.  Rather, I was able to make a sincere connection with another human being based on a simple, common interest, one that he valued and cared enough about to share with meI never imagined sharing something as easy as music would be so...emotional.  I don't know what exactly was going through the man's mind or heart throughout the entire interaction, so I feel almost one-sided on this subject, but I just cannot let myself believe I saw anything other than joy in his smile.  I wish I could see more of them.  I wish I could make more of them.  Until the time when true joy covers the faces of every person on this earth, I'm happy to get a glimpse of it when I can.

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