An evening during the vacation

The present and home

“It is not about where we met, but who we have met.” A CL community vacation in Georgia. Those “unknown” friends and the challenge of moving away. A letter from a friend in Gainsville.

I love people. I love being around people and getting to know new people. However, sometimes I have my limits, and there are some instances that typically bring me anxiety. In most cases, something like the CL vacation would have been one of those instances – a setting in which I am with a few people I know and many more whom I do not know. A setting where many already know each other and I am worried about my ability to fit in.

Something about this vacation, though, was different, and there were many little moments to illuminate this. The first was a reminder. One of my last weeks in Gainesville, during School of Community we were talking about being present. What Juan said about it struck me deeply: “The present deserves the highest level of priority”. It is something quite simple, yet hard for me to practice, as I am often ruminating on my past and stressed out about the future. On the vacation, being present seemed easier than ever before. I found myself really focused on the people before me, struck by their authenticity and their desire to know me. I desired to know them too, often asking myself: “Who are these people?!” Even more, Juan shared again during this vacation that prioritizing the present has helped him to realize that the people around him are shaping his future and enlightening his past. How very true was this realization for me as I thought about the surprise of how you and all these people came into my life as well as the fact and certainty that living in the present with you all is forever shaping my future.

I was really fascinated by the way I encountered the people on this vacation. There were the friends I already knew, like Camila, who came for the first time knowing just me. It still surprises me how she so whimsically came on this trip. She, too, asked this question of, “Who are these people?!” which helped me to be aware of what was happening. Others, like Duyen, Silvio, and Sandy – all of whom I’ve known for years now – also helped me discover more what has happened. Despite my knowing them for quite some time, this desire to truly share life with them was more present than before. I think that it showed me that not only are these people my friends, but they are also, and more importantly, the face of Christ for me.

What struck me even more perhaps were all the encounters with those whom I had not yet met. I found myself, on one hand, having conversations with people that surpassed the superficial and made me forget that this person was a stranger just 30 minutes prior.

On the other hand, there were many small moments such as the embrace of a child or a small word of affirmation from someone whom I barely knew that were also very surprising. My parish priest growing up would always say: “These are not strangers, just friends whom you have not yet met”. All I can say is that these words felt very true to me on the vacation, so much so that I kept thinking to myself about these new friends “I can’t wait to see them again”.

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Something that still resonates with me was brought up at the assembly. Eric asked a question that had been on my heart ever since I realized I would be leaving Gainesville, namely the fear of leaving behind friendships and finding new ones. I have thought about Esmeralda’s response to it every day since then. “It is not about where we met, but who we have met”. Her words not only gave me so much hope and peace about my future, but also clearly answered the question of “Who are these people?!”. The friends like you that I have made since I met the movement, the people I met on the vacation, and those who I know I will continue to meet all share in this: we have met the person of Christ, and we have done that by meeting each other. This fact is true no matter where I go, and words cannot describe how much I needed that realization. “I’m starting to realize the question worth asking is ‘who?’” we sang one day at the vacation (Home from Home). With this, home can be anywhere.

These are some of my thoughts. I always have more, but these have been on my mind since I left Georgia. All I can say is thank you, truly. Words cannot capture the gratitude I have for what God has given me through my friendship with you.

Agenia, Gainesville, Florida