And that week was when I realized how much Mass meant to me.
If I didn’t have Jesus that week, or any day, for that matter, I know I would have fallen apart more often than I did. (Surprise, teammates! I wasn’t as together as I appeared! *sigh* Oh, the beauty/confusion of being somewhat of a stoic…) Mass united me with the universal Church, and I knew I could depend on the graces of Communion to give me a spiritual boost. Mass also united me in a deeper way with my team, as we all offered our entire selves on the altar and asked for the graces to make it through one more day.
An even greater challenge for me was to open up to my team. Being an introvert, it takes me a little while to feel comfortable sharing any part of myself with others. Yes, I fully realize that we’re not supposed to share our hearts with people the first week we know them. But when you’re living with people for 13 weeks, it’s kinda strange if you don’t share anything. After I had recognized and accepted that these people were actually trustworthy, I was able to, little by little, share bits of myself with them. I found that some of the best conversations occurred during night shift. I don’t know what it was about walking at night, but there was just something about the stars being above you and the road expanding as far as you could see in the dark.
For me, I had three conversations that really stand out to me as being truly blessed. The first was, in fact, during night shift; we were doing a 10-mile walk, the air was cool, and it was a conversation in which, at the end, we both really understood where the other was coming from. The second was difficult and deep, and again happened at night, but this time was at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s home for the elderly where we were staying the weekend. This one was so hard for me to begin, because it was born of my “I’m driving the struggle bus” experience over the previous 3 weeks. But ultimately, I’m so glad I had the conversation and I will be eternally grateful for the other person’s willingness to let me share my heart and to be open in return. And finally, the last was sitting on the gravel in an RV park during the last week of the walk. I was able to really share with someone who I hadn’t been able to previously, and vice versa and that pouring out of hearts has continued past the walk.
I have learned what a blessing vulnerability is. Frankly, vulnerability is something I’m quite horrible at, but this summer taught me that it can be ok to open up to people. Not everyone is going to betray my trust. Now, I have some very concrete examples for myself of occasions when vulnerability paid off, both for myself and others.