|“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Pope Benedict XVI|
Community life is a beautiful mess, just like each one of us as individuals. We each bring with us our own quirks and habits, joys and heartaches, roses and thorns. And the longer we spend together, the more of these roses and thorns we discover… about each other, and about ourselves. From the moment we arrived we have been repeatedly told that we’re all here for a reason, a divine purpose, and that the team wouldn’t be complete without each one of us. It’s funny, though, that no matter how many times we hear this it seems as if each one of us can look at ourselves and say “everyone belongs here, except me,” or “the teens love everyone so much more than they love me, so why am I here?” These are some of the lies we fight internally, and while I don’t believe that such doubts are unique to SPIRITUS, I think that they’re certainly emphasized here. It can be hard to remember our individuality when we are striving daily to conform our wills to the SPIRITUS mission, and it is so easy to compare our failings to the talents of our brother and sister missionaries.
To put it short – I can look at each of my brothers and sisters here and tell you exactly where their talents lie and what gifts they bring to the team and how our ministry would suffer without them. But when it comes to myself, I don’t feel worthy enough, talented enough, or even welcomed. And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.
But while it’s our comparison of ourselves against the other team members that tend to bring us down, it’s only in community with our brothers and sisters that we are able to hear of and discover our own greatness! We need our community to slow us down and remind us that we are worthy and talented and a part of a caring and attentive team. One of the beautiful ways that this happens here in SPIRITUS is through celebrating birthdays. During the week prior to someone’s birthday, the rest of the team pretends to sneak around to discover what that person likes to do, or their favorite type of dessert. Then during the week of their birthday, on whichever night we’re scheduled to have team dinner, we pretend it’s a surprise party and set out the nice table cloth and candles and blow up balloons.
Granted, some of us appreciate this more than others. I know for myself, I have built up a sort of ‘false humility’ around my birthday, not wanting to be celebrated because really, what is there to celebrate? Besides, isn’t it more ‘adult like’ to not want to celebrate birthdays? To pretend we’re not getting any older? In reality, though, it’s not about getting older. It’s about living. It’s about being able to celebrate and appreciate with renewed fervor the life that we’ve been given for another year. And this is where community comes in. No matter how much I don’t want to be celebrated (probably because I don’t want feel like I’m worth celebrating), my brother and sister missionaries can’t wait to celebrate me, and over the course of the week they managed to highlight so many of their favorite qualities in me, and in doing so made me feel like I belonged.
My birthday was back in September and one of the first to be celebrated. Since then, we’ve celebrated a few more birthdays and they only get better with time. I take so much joy in spending time to celebrate each one of my teammates and I thank God that He gave each one of them life and designed for them to spend this period of their life here with me. And if they are a necessity and joy here on this team, then perhaps I am to. If they are worth celebrating, then so am I. As my team has shown me, I am not “casual and meaningless”, but rather I am “willed,... loved,... (and) necessary,” just like Pope Benedict XVI says.
For my birthday, some of the girls decorated my room over their lunch break with streamers and balloons and left my favorite kind of ice cream in the freezer!
Below are some photos of our crazy birthday pranks! I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring to us.
Gemma’s birthday was over our Thanksgiving break, so upon our return we made sure to make her feel loved by stacking 149 plastic cups against her door! I don’t live in her household, but I was told that it made quite a ruckus when she opened the door the next morning, to which she responded “Oh my gosh I love you guys!!!!”
For Brianna’s birthday, we snuck into her hall around midnight and tapped a large trash bag over her door and filled the gap between the door and bag with balloons so that the next morning when she opened her door she was greeted by joy and color!