It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in. I’ve delayed writing this post for days now, leaving it undone from my daily to-do list each day. My hesitation is not because things are bad, or that I have nothing to report. Rather, each time I sit to write a post, I’m intimidated by the task before me: to process and analyze my life in a way that is coherent. Each time I sit to write a post, I ask myself: “How I can do justice to myself, to the people around me, and the goings on in my life? How can I make it meaningful and understandable?” Well, in finally sitting and writing this, I’ve been continuing the chant that has been carrying me forward through my struggles thus far. It’s the chorus to the beloved children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it. We have to go through it.” So here I am, going through.
My average stress levels through the weeks since my last post have been roughly doubled, as the youth program year kicked-off in earnest, just in time for added discipline during Lent. Our kickoff party happened on February 22 with dancing, food and music. I was a nervous wreck leading up to it. I didn’t know how many people were coming, and therefore didn’t know if I had bought enough food for everyone. I didn’t know how to make the playlist, wasn’t sure how long it would take to cook the burgers, wasn’t sure if the handout I made to outline the upcoming months made any sense. More than anything, it felt like the kickoff party was my first real test, and I was terrified that I would fail. Furthermore, if I couldn’t make a party fun, who would ever believe that I could make a Bible study fun? I couldn’t go over it, I couldn’t go under it.
Despite my distress, the party was a success. About 40 people came, and there was enough food for all. The youth were lively and had a good time. I struggled to play enough Amapiano music, but with some help from those around me, there was good music and lots of dancing. The youth had a lot of fun wowing me with their dancing, and helping me learn the proper dance moves. My dancing is far from smooth on a good day, but I believe that with a year under their tutelage, my dancing with improve significantly. Whether my dancing be good or bad, it was a lot of fun.
The day after the party was Vestry Sunday at St. Michael’s, which is the annual meeting. It took place during the service and ended up lasting 5 hours. I had honestly forgotten that it was going to happen until they started setting up. As the tables were being brought forward, one of the parishioners leaned over to inform me that he was going to nominate me to be one of the two secretaries of vestry, taking the minutes of the meeting. I was a little unsure, but I agreed to do it, trusting that he would know better whether I was a good choice for the job. Soon after I started, I began to realize my limitations. Although I am an excellent note taker, one of my main jobs as secretary was to write down the names of each person who gave a proposal, seconded the proposal or generally asked questions or made comments. I do not know many names in the congregation, and I relied heavily on my co-secretary to help me fill in the names whenever he had a second. Despite my limitations, I think I performed adequately, and many parishioners thanked me for taking on the challenge.
Then came Fat Tuesday. I helped the youth at St. Thomas run the pancake supper which was a chaotic rush of mixing pancake batter and cooking as fast as we could. As it turned out, “pancakes” here refers to a much thinner cake, closer to what I think of as a crepe. They were then filled with either mince meat or cinnamon sugar after cooking. While they were short on chefs I was asked to help cook the pancakes, which I confess I performed poorly at. That said, along with my many ugly (but delicious) failures, came a few glorious successes. As soon as the proper personnel arrived, I was only too happy to be relieved of that duty. I then self-assigned myself the task of maintaining morale among the youth in the kitchen by DJ-ing from my phone, along with washing some dishes. The next day, Ash Wednesday, was made long because of the hunger that comes with fasting (I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it), but made much better by spending most of the day hanging out with some friends from St. Thomas.
Otherwise, my focus has been on the Youth Program at St. Michael’s, which is now meeting every Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we are doing a Lenten series, and on Sunday we will have another supplemental meeting that will be a different activity each week. The meeting last Saturday did not go quite according to plan, because the Lenten series is based on videos we had on a DVD. But there was no DVD player available, which we didn’t know until it was already time to start the meeting. I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it. Despite my plans going awry, the meeting was actually really productive. I was able to talk to the youth more, gauge their interests, and learn a little bit more about where they are in terms of their Christian education. In our Sunday meeting, we talked about building a Lenten discipline, and what makes a discipline meaningful. I hope that they were able to create their own discipline based on our discussion. That said, no matter what they may or may not add, the youth at large are participating in a daily mindfulness practice during Lent. Each day in the group chat I have been sending a prayer, quote, Bible verse or a prompt of some kind, inviting the youth to engage with it in whatever way works for them. If you wish, you can join us in that practice for today. Today’s verse was Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The more I do, the more I fully realize the significance of my work here. I’m realizing the kind of difference my being here can make. How the future of this program could change if it gets a good enough jump-start. The amount of outreach, meaningful Christian ed, and community building these youth could accomplish with a thriving youth program. Dreaming of the future has made me even more driven and passionate about this project, but it has also amplified my fears in equal measure. The stakes are raised for me, as I’ve realized what this program stands to lose, based on what the youth and I can create together this year. But the fear means it matters. The fear means that the dream is worth the work and struggle to get there. I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it. I have to go through it.