retreats / San Damiano

Being the Light for Each Other in the Darkness

One of the things that strikes me, now just a day after the retreat has come to close is the spirit of the crowd that was there. They were truly there, present, living in the now. They embraced everything that came their way, sharing, opening up, giving of themselves again and again. It is inspiring to see sixty people do this, with no expectations, no agenda – just a desire to grow and experience life.

I had many favorite moments of the retreat. I take away images of quiet moments, of couples, friends, groups of families, all bravely coming to a retreat together. Of people leaving their individual comfort zones, letting go of those folks they may have walked in together with, and opening their arms to new people in their small groups. I loved seeing that some of the randomly assigned small groups related so well that they lost track of time, talking well into the next presentations, taking their own time to continue to meet. It is amazing when the spirit shows up and brings the right people together at the right time. It is amazing.

I loved New Year’s Eve, with its quirky surprise events. At right about 11:45, we were met with darkness when all the lights went out with a blown transformer. It was a teaching moment, reminding each of us that we are never completely in control. Just when we have everything planned, everything figured out, a feast planned, drinks ready and a singer in the wings – the Universe reminds us that we are part of a bigger plan. Dependent on so many things, our best bet is to roll with what comes our way. As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture, “we can’t control the hand we’re dealt, we can only control how we play the cards.”

How did these New Year’s Revelers respond? There was an impromptu countdown, with much toasting and cheering. We eat a small feast in the dark, under emergency lights. There were those singing “Feliz Navidad” around the fireplace, in the wee hours, after even the safety lights went out. There were those escorting other people back to their rooms, returning with the flashlights to the Fireside room to escort others again, until everyone was safe and sound.

These people, perhaps strangers when they arrived, rose to the occasion. They were the Light in the Darkness for each other. They showed what community can be and do, and they have lit a light in my own heart. I thank each and everyone of them, and wish them all the Happiest of New Years.