Florida. Creative Commons CC0

Flordia Family Vacation Stories

Experiences from people who went to the Florida Family Vacation.

Florida Georgia Line
One morning, as I was sipping my coffee on the porch of the lodge where the Florida Family Vacation was taking place, I remembered that we had to set up the room where we just had breakfast for the meeting that we were about to have. I have always been involved in the organization of almost all the vacations I partook in, so it was a normal impulse. I walked into the lodge, and to my surprise the room was already set, and a couple of friends were cleaning up breakfast, smiling. It hit me. Because for a second I thought: ‘What is there for me to do, now?’. And then I started looking at those people, and I understood that it was the most important thing that was asked of me: keep my eyes open.

I learned again to use my eyes
It is the same experience of Maddalena. On a post-graduation trip to Florida, she found herself at the vacation. She did not plan to attend, but the family who was hosting her invited her to come. She had been to many CL vacation in Italy before, but this time she could not speak the language very well, nor could she understand much of the conversations. “I realized that this problem-seeming circumstance was my best resource. I would say that I learned again to use my eyes, which became the main tool to realize what was happening before me. Many times, I did not understand discourses and dialogues, and yet nothing could prevent me from dwelling on the gaze of those 40 people, who were glad and enthusiast to live those days together”. What did Maddalena’s eyes see? A striking familiarity. Many joked about the fact that we called it a Family Vacation, yet not many kids were able to attend. And then the joke turned into an occasion to realize that those faces were becoming ‘family’. Rachael was driving from Thallahasse on Friday, to join us for the weekend because work did not let her come up on Wednesday when the vacation started. She was going to a CL vacation for the first time. “I was very struck by the sadness I felt at not being able to spend as much time as I'd like with a group of strangers. My desire to be with people that I had never met before was very surprising and new to me”. Sonya, there for the first time as well, simply sums it up in this way: “I spent time with 40 strangers for a week who quickly became my friends and family”.

A familiar invitation
Nathalie lives in Austin, TX. She was in Europe when her community had the Summer Vacation, but a friend from Florida invited her in Georgia: “There was a familiarity to this invitation because it reminded me of an invitation from a friend five years ago when I first started going to School of Community in Austin which later led not only to a beautiful friendship with my friend Carlotta but also to this companionship of CL”. In different shapes and forms, all of us felt the same familiarity to that invitation, even those who were coming for the first time. Because a promise that concerns our heart makes everything familiar. Rachael noticed: “After being with everyone for only a few minutes, the 7+ hour drive for a short weekend was already worth it. I was amazed at how loved I felt by a group of people who had just met me”. And Nathalie thus describes what she saw: “I saw this love and care from many people during the vacation such as Elena, Ricky, Miriam and Eddie who were always smiling in the kitchen preparing food for us, Joe Poole and Joe Redondo helping us to cross difficult parts of the hike, Pam and John going into the river to help Tom search for his glasses...” Sharing life 24/7 and having to care for every aspect of the vacation encouraged everybody to take ownership over the time we spent together. And in action, we verify and witness what we hold most dear. Matteo was re-awakened by Rachel’s witness: “What is missing is not a piece of reality that is not happening or not there, but my ‘yes’ to the only Presence in my life that declares: ‘I will always be there for you’”.

Gratitude for a place where to belong
I came home with the urgency to know what made those days possible, for our lives have been touched and revived by what we saw. “I'm leaving the vacation with an increased desire and gratitude. I want to say like Enrico, Desa and Rachel did over the weekend: that's all I want, nothing else out of life, only what is real, only the possibility for love and for communion, nothing else matters, only a relationship with You”. We go back to our daily life, then, knowing that we are not alone, because our eyes have seen and our hands have touched what makes life worth-living. Maddalena, back in Milan, writes: “I thought I was coming to the US to get a break from my usual life and worries in Milan. Instead, I was run over by a life made of encounters, stories, and faces who re-awakened the desire to keep belonging to the experience of the Movement”.