Death is nothing at all…

eu-lo-gy (yo͞oləjē), noun, a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died.

Writing my mother’s eulogy was never something I thought I would have to do. After my mother’s passing, we asked an uncle if he would give it, he responded asking if my sister or I had thought about giving it ourselves. My answer was no, I didn’t even contemplate I would or should be the one to speak. After discerning and discussing with other family members, I decided it should be me. That’s when the hard part began.

Based on a eulogy someone shared with me I knew only two things. One, keep it short and sweet. Two, I wanted to start with a powerful and meaning quote and end with a poem. That took 10 minutes to find and put onto paper, but for the next 36 hours, there I sat, looking at a paper with nothing in the middle.

How do you sum up a life in a brief speech? A life full of love and joy. A live full of ups and downs. A life full of friends and family. A life full of laughter and tears. I began to feel inadequate. There was certainly no way I could do my mother any justice in a matter of moments. What if I forgot something important?

While attempting to complete the speech, I was driving down an old country road. It was a picturesque winter scene of New England and I completely lost it. I was crying, sobbing really. It just hit me out of no where. A few moments later, the tears calmed down, much less but they just dribbled down my cheeks. That’s when the wave of emotion clarified my restless mind. The speech came to me. So many ideas, all at once; I felt overwhelmed but it all made sense. When I finally sat down at my computer, the words flowed and this is what I had…

It has been said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

My mom was a great teacher and a teacher to all – whether she was our mother, sister, daughter, friend or actually your math teacher. She inspired many and taught lessons both in and out of the classroom. We will miss these lessons immensely.

One lesson she taught us was to do what makes us happy. Something that made my mom happy was going on long drives. Normally these drives took us north, usually up Route 7 to Massachusetts and sometimes, if we were feeling adventurous, we’d hit the Vermont border. One thing we never did was drive south to New Jersey.

Often, we’d go to Kent Falls, the old covered bridge, Stockbridge, Mass or go shopping at the outlets in Lee. Some of my favorite memories with mom were these drives. We would stop in Stockbridge at the General Store so I could stock up on 10 cent candies and Sarah and I would plead to stop at Catherine’s, a chocolate store along the route, to get a treat.

She loved taking drives so much, we would drive over 2 hours away to go apple picking every fall. And during the summers, we would always drive a few hours down here to hit up Jones Beach so mom could work on her tan, a trait I did not inherit from her.

Car rides weren’t the only thing our mom enjoyed. Mom loved to play cards; though I’m pretty sure that is a requirement to be in the Donnellan family. There are many fond memories in the family of playing Michigan Rummy or hearts around our Grandmother’s dining room table.

Sarah’s favorite memory of mom is staying home on snowdays only to sit by the fire, play pokeno and feast on artichoke dip. And mom did enjoy artichoke dip; she always volunteered to make some for get togethers.

Another lesson we were taught by mom was to be good people. However that may be. Her rule of thumb was to always start by taking care of your family, and then those around you.

When I was preparing this, I asked some of mom’s friends if they had any good memories I could incorporate, Lourdes shared with me one of her memories. A few years ago, mom, along with other teachers, took up a collection to buy Christmas presents for one of the students whose family couldn’t afford them. Mom and Lourdes went out to buy 19 gifts for the students. This was also something that mom was proud to have done.

My mother loved her students. She was so fiercely passionate about ensuring they succeeded and would keep tabs on her former students; I can’t even imagine how many there were, but mom sure seemed to know whenever one of them had a big achievement.

She was very proud to be a teacher. In fact, over the past few months she would very proudly share that she was still a middle school math teacher and had not retired.

As a friend and former neighbor said the other day, “I hope one day to be half the teacher she was.”

Sarah and I want to thank our cousins, Kate, Kevin, and Kailyn, along with our friend Amaka, for their help going through the family photo albums and creating the picture boards and slideshow that brought back many memories of our mother; some of which are pictures from long before we were born, when our mom was a little girl with long blonde curls.

So let me end with some stanzas of a poem shared with our family by a friend:

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened. 

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

On behalf of our entire family, I would like to thank you all for being here to support us. Through all of this, you have all shown our family love, compassion and support. It has meant the world to us.

Rest in Peace, Mom. You are missed and forever loved.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scouts.


The Christmas Story Told Through Hymns

Christmas has become more of a Hallmark holiday than one of the most holiest times for Christians. Holiday music is being pumped out of speakers across the radio in cars and stores, making Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas stuck in our head for days. But for Christians, Christmas is about much more — Christmas is a joyous time to celebrate the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from sin and die for us. Christmas music has been around since the beginning of hymns in Church. The story of Christmas can be found in the lyrics of some of our favorite hymns.

The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came
“The angel Gabriel from Heaven came….“All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored lady.”….“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, all generations laud and honor thee”.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
“O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. That mourn in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem
“O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth! And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on Earth. For Christ is born of Mary and gathered all above, while mortals sleep the Angels keep their watch of wondering love.”

Away in a Manger
“Away in a manger, no crib for His bed, the little Lord Jesus, laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.”

What Child is This?
“What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?”

Silent Night, Holy Night
“Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace!”

The First Noel
“They looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far and the the Earth it gave great light, and so it continues both day and night. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!”

O Come All Ye Faithful
“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, o come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him, o come let us adore him, o come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

Joy to the World
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her King, let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven and nature sing.”

We Three Kings of Orient Are
“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star. O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us the thy perfect light.”

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

Serenity Prayer

As I get ready to head back to Camp Veritas tomorrow, I wanted to share with you all my favorite prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

That’s all for now. Peace out cub scouts.

Do Whatever He Tells You

>Preface: the following post is actually some fleeting thoughts of a personal reflection I jotted down yesterday morning while listening to Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley address approximately 700 religious and catechists at the Diocese of Bridgeport‘s Catechetical Congress.

I am not a perfect Catholic — no one is (well there may be an exception of two, anyone heard of our Immaculate Mother?). This morning I woke up half excited, half dreading the day — well dread may be an exaggeration, but I can’t in all honesty say I was 100% excited to be attending this year’s Catechetical Congress. Like many other 24-year-olds, sitting through lectures and workshops for an entire Saturday is no what I look forward to. In school, I slept through big lectures like the one I am currently in, and now I tend to opt out of these sorts of things. The theme for today’s conference is to do whatever He tells you to do (He being God — in case you were wondering…). Well, I guess that’s what I am doing right now, right? Originally, I had no intentions to register for this today, I kept trying to come up with a reason to skip it but I had no calid reason to say no. Well why not just say no, sleep in and go out instead? Because a nun I have known since I was a toddle asked me to come. Just as I can’t tell her no when she asks me to teach another year of religion, I couldn’t say no to her without having a valid reason not to come (something to do, family plans, anything other than “sorry, I’m just not into it” would have worked). Sister is a great lady and has always believed in me — I always get the benefit of the doubt with her. Sometimes I feel guilty because I know she thinks the nest of everyone and I think she gives me too much credit most of the time. I am 24, I like to go out and have a good time, but all in all, at the bottom of my heart, I know that she (and her religious ed. program) are who helped my parents form who I am today. They gave me values and morals. They are a huge part of why ethics mean so much to me today.

But back to the conference — two of my friends were going (and then we ran into another friend we didn’t know would be here). So the three of us agreed to go together — we would show up together and keep each other company throughout the day. I accepted that I would be busy today as I would be here. This week, I was even given another out. I could go mountain biking in the snow (assuming it actually snowed on Friday night) in the Catskills. I was torn at first, go to this, or get to spend time with a guy I want to get to know more. In the end, I did what I usually do, I followed through with me word and here I am (or there I was…) sitting at Sacred Heart University listening to Cardinal O’Malley (my favorite bishop). Everything he’s saying applies to me right now. I am doing what He told men and I highly doubt I will regret coming to this.

I guess I just keep surprising myself everyday, though I’m not sure why. I registered for an event and I’m not one to cancel on people unless I really need to, so why am I surprised that I’m here? Regardless of the fact that I keep underestimating myself, it’s OK. Lately I’ve been learning some important life lessons, or at least I’m realizing some key things I think I’ve always sort of know, but overlooked — today is no different. I have grown up. I know who I am and staying true to that is important to me. I know there’s still more for me to learn and I’m still learning things day by day. But my morals and the basis of who I am is set. I follow through with my word and I don’t compromise my morals. I guess this is not something that should come as a shock to me, but it did today and I’m awed by it. Maybe one day I’ll even learn to stop underestimating myself and I’ll realize Sister isn’t in fact giving me too much credit; she’s giving me credit I deserve.

In hindsight, I am glad I went. I enjoyed it and it wasn’t actually that boring. I met some amazing people and got to spend some quality time with some great friends.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

walking to paradise

>Yesterday I had the opportunity to take part in the 1st Annual Pilgrimage of New York City with six of my friends. Some of you are probably already asking what a pilgrimage is, I sure wondered about what one was the first time I heard about one. For thousands of years Christians have been making pilgrimages all over the world to many different religious sites as both a physical and spiritual journey to bring you closer to Christ. As many know, there is lots of Catholic tradition within the waters surrounding Manhattan, so this year some very wise people decided to organize a pilgrimage that we could partake in locally.

The physical portion of the pilgrimage began in Washington Heights at the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini at 10AM, but for us it began at about 7AM as we needed to all meet up and trek down to Manhattan (by way of the Bronx) to get there before it began. At 7AM, four of my friends left from one of their apartments a bit north of me and I left my house, meeting them at the train station parking lot at 7:30AM with a small breakfast in my stomach, a cup of coffee and my sneakers in hand and a very large bag of trail mix along with my nalgene in my bag. The five of us then set off to meet the remaining two girls in the Bronx, whom we then drove with to Yankee Stadium to park at the Subway station. The seven of us, slightly tired, filed down the stairs to the D train only to find out that the Metro Card machines were not taking cash or credit. Instead of taking this as a sign of what may be to come, we bought our cards from the man in the booth and ventured downtown, transferred to the A train and finally arrived at the 190th Street station where we needed to get off the subway and head to the Shrine. While walking out of the station we ran into our first new friend of the day, Ron, a reporter for Catholic New York. Ron saw that we were headed to the pilgrimage and joined us in our attempt to find the Shrine to check-in and begin (we may or may not have headed in the wrong direction a couple of times before finding the Shrine itself).

Finally we all made it to the Shrine and got our blue wristbands and were able to tour around the Shrine and prepare to begin the pilgrimage. After some prayer and an application of sunscreen, I headed outside to join the girls and our fellow walkers. As time passed, we were able to meet some of our fellow walkers and to take our before picture. We were stretched and ready to go when 10AM struck and we joined the others for the pilgrimage under the tree. We were briefed on the events of the day and how the walk was going to begin before we all headed inside as a group to learn more about St. Frances. St. Frances Cabrini is the patron Saint of immigrants, and also the first American to be canonized a saint. After our brief history on St. Frances, we prayed as a group before heading back outside to split into our walking groups. Once those walking on their own and in their own groups took off, we took off with the “speed group”. Our plan was to take the longest path between the five sites and to walk through Central Park when we got there. In the first 100 block we walked, I think we only hit about 6 or 7 stop lights at corners and I was doing great, I was actually surprised how far we had got since I could not physically feel any wear on my body. On route to Central Park, we passed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and we also prayed the Stations of the Cross while walking.  

We made it to the NW corner of the park just as we were finishing the stations and we began our cross park trek down the main road that circles the park. About 1/3 down through the park we saw a dirty water hot-dog stand, and of course some of us stopped to grab a quick bite to eat. It was here that two new friends of the day were met, Rob & his friend he came to do the pilgrimage with. These two stopped to grab a drink and hot-dogs along with us. You’d be surprised how far the group could get in the short time we had stopped. Since we lost all sight of the group, the 6 or 7 of us who had stopped headed on together towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We got about 1/2 through the park when we cut across to the east side and once at 72nd Street, we cut out to 5th Avenue and headed straight down to St. Pat’s. Along with Rob and his friend, Ron had rejoined our mini-group mid-park and stuck with us. We learned on this portion of our walk that some of Ron’s co-workers had an over/under pool of how far he would make it and we were determined to have him make it through.

About 1:30PM we made it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in mid-town. At the front steps here we met up with the other girls that we lost along the way in the park. Some of them went to the deli nearby to grab food while myself and two of my friends headed inside with Ron to see the crypt below the altar where the bishops are buried, which was rather cool as three of them are currently Servants of God and on their way to becoming canonized. Once everyone got out of the crypts, we all gathered as a large group on the patio outside where we were advised to jump on the 6 train to Bleeker Street to stay on track. Of course, me with my big mouth decided to ask about those of us who wished to continue on walking instead of taking the subway. The organizer of the walk told me that we were more than welcome to, but none of the leaders would be going with us. There was a large group of women who wanted to walk with us and our new friends but somewhere between planning to continue on walking and actually heading out, we split up and they headed on their way without us. Once the original 7 of us gathered back together with Ron & Rob, we were joined by a CFR, Brother Simon and 3 other new friends, Tricia, Marcus & Monica.

The 13 of us continued on downtown to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was great being with this smaller group as we were able to learn more about some of our new friends, even though I ended up ahead of them at many intersections as I took the leap many New Yorkers take and walked with the sign showing stop while the group stopped and waited for the signal to change. We finally found our way to our next location, where I learned that the high walls around the Old Cathedral were built to protect the church itself when tensions between the Catholics & Protestants were high (thanks Ron for that lesson).

By the time we made it to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, there was a wedding going on, so we said a quick prayer in the foyer and headed out. When we got outside we realized (thanks to my handy GPS on the iPhone) that the 4th location on the pilgrimage was not exactly en-route to the final location — as is it was 3 miles away, whereas the final location was only 2 miles away. That said, with a time limit quickly closing in on us, we decided to take a direct route and head for the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. We headed out through Chinatown along with about another 10 pilgrims who tagged along at the Old Cathedral. While on Mott Street in Chinatown, we stopped at the Church of the Transfiguration and said our prayers for St. Peter there since as Bro. Simon pointed out, St. Peter was there after all.

We then continued on our way one last time to the final location, where we were able to rejoin all the other pilgrims 6 hours after leaving the starting location for a closing mass 13.1 miles from our starting point. We had some time inside the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to pray and recoop before mass began. What was really cool is that while we began at the shrine of the 1st American to become a saint, we ended at the shrine of the 1st American-born to become a saint. The pastor of the parish gave us a quick history lesson on St. Elizabeth before mass began and with the close of mass came the close to a great day. As everyone was filtering out and saying goodbye to new friends. Myself along with two of the girls did a quick interview with a Catholic channel that was there and then rejoined the group outside. Once almost everyone had departed the seven of us along with Rob, Ron & Bro. Simon headed to the Starbucks & deli nearby to grab some food and coffee to eat for a quick bite in Battery Park before heading back home. We sat on the benches near the water and enjoyed some final laughs with our new friends before heading to the subway to get on home. While it had been a gorgeous day out and watching the sunset over the water was a sight to be seen, finally getting on the subway and heading home was a magnificent feeling. 

I realize that while this was a great overview of the physical journey, it is hard to put the spiritual part into words. Just as it is something that happens within, it seems to be meant to stay that way as the words just won’t come together to explain it. I think part of this is that I am still realizing now, 27 hours after getting home, that I didn’t even realize what I was experiencing along the way, I only realized it after the fact. But I also think this is just one of those things that no matter how hard you try, any explanation you provide to others will never seem to do it justice. But then, I think that’s part of the mystery and beauty of a pilgrimage.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

do a survey, help your parish

>Hey everyone! 

If you are a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Ridgefield, CT, please read this and complete the survey which can be found at the bottom.

As you may or may not know, St. Mary’s is currently formulating the next strategic plan and has asked for input from all parishioners — and that includes you! One thing that has been addressed by the committee is that there is a need for a ministry geared to young adults in the parish who don’t really have a ministry they fall into. I’ve been asked by a member of the committee to pass along this survey (the link is below) to everyone I can think of to please fill it out — it is 5 questions long and won’t take you that long to do it. 

Thank you in advance for your input. 
(And please feel free to pass this along to others.)

for the survey, click here  
for more information about the strategic plan you can read the newsletter here

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

St. Mary’s Mission Trip 2009

>As some of you know, I took last week off from work for vacation. I didn’t go anywhere exotic, it wasn’t a week laying on the beach and it definitely was not a week full of sleep and relaxation. For the past week, I have been out of touch with the modern world. I took 5 1/2 days off from work to chaperone my church’s mission trip to Queens, NY.

In a brief summary, I slept on a gym floor with no A/C, the showers had cold water and no water pressure, and that is when the water was actually running, it was the hottest week of the summer so far and I was running around outside, basically feeling as gross as ever for a week. That said, I had the best week I could have asked for. I served others. I witnessed teens grow and give more of themselves than I would have ever done at their age. I was reminded of my real purpose in this world. In short, I cannot think of a better way for me to have spent half of my vacation time this year.
July 24th
On Friday I left work halfway through the day to come home and finish packing up before heading to URI for the weekend for the Steubenville East Conference with about 60 teens from St. Mary’s youth group. After a relatively uneventful trip up to URI, Rob & I met up with our group during the opening festivities, right before adoration. Being there before adoration began was wonderful as it gave me time to focus on why I was there and to remove everything else going on in my life from my mind. Once the whole opening festivities were over, we had a chance to break into our small groups. For the weekend I co-lead my group with one of the most wonderful women I have ever met; my friend Lynn. We had a group of 5 teens that we sporadically met up with during the weekend to debrief and discuss with. By the end of Friday, I was completely overwhelmed, but in a good way. There was just so much going through my head and I had just witnessed about 1500 teens blowing my mind away in adoration.
July 25th
Saturday came soon enough, especially due to the little sleep I had Friday night. After breakfast we split into women’s and mens sessions. The women met in the basketball stadium and after a very lively rendition of Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me, we were blessed to hear Shannon Deitz‘s witness. Shannon’s witness was followed by the most entertaining mass I have ever sat through. Fr. Jose, accompanied by about 12-15 other priests and brothers, said mass for all of us. Fr. Jose’s homily may have been the longest homily I have ever heard, but it was also one of the few that I have been so enthralled in what he was saying that I didn’t want it to end. I mean, have you ever started singing na-na-na-na in the middle of a mass? Fr. Jose taught the kids to say good-bye to the people and things in their life that are holding them back (well, actually he wants them to say na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, ADIOS BABY!). After some lunch and down time, we headed off to workshops followed by some more small group time. Saturday evening’s session again included adoration but this time, Fr. Jose walked around the stadium with the monstrance giving almost everyone a chance to reach out and touch Jesus Christ. After this powerful experience, we were again given some time to regroup in our small groups before heading to bed.
July 26th
After packing the cargo van and eating some breakfast, Sunday was spent in the basketball stadium again. We were all blessed with Joia Farmer‘s witness and lots of praise and worship before mass and heading out for Youth Works. Once mass was over, we headed to the parking lot to take a group picture and head out to Queens. In the process of splitting up into our cars, saying good-bye to the few people who were heading home and taking our group picture, one of the mini-vans we rented got a flat tire. Since I had met the crew at URI, I took 4 seniors, Mike, Annie, Courtney & Joan, who were in a car with one of the chaperones who was heading home; Mike was our navigator (and I must say he did a great job). Once the picture was taken, all of us loaded up cars and headed for Queens while Lynn stayed back with Bob and all the kids from both their cars to wait for AAA to come and fix the tire. The rest of us headed down 95 and stopped at Hammonasset State Park for lunch. We ate some pizza, walked the beach and watched 8 of the kids jump in (and get thrown into the Long Island Sound). Once they attempted to dry off, we loaded up our cars once more and headed for Jamaica, Queens. We arrived in Queens a bit later than expected due to Sunday afternoon traffic on I-95. When we did arrive, we were greeted by our Youth Works staff and unloaded all our cars and cargo into the building we would be sleeping in.
The girls slept upstairs in the gymnasium while the guys were on the first floor in the auditorium. Once our belongings were inside and sorted, it was time for dinner. The teens joined the Youth Works crew in the Club Room while the chaperones grabbed dinner and went to a meeting to get prepped for the week. Our days would all be structured about the same:
  • breakfast
  • devotions
  • work site
  • break
  • dinner
  • evening activity
  • club
  • church group time
July 27th
Monday morning began at 7am with breakfast and being split into our work crews. Myself and Patty were the leaders for the GIANTS.We had 10 students in our group and after our daily devotions, we headed to Madison York Assisted Living Center. We spent the majority of the day with the elderly that live there. We talked, played cards, catch, BINGO, dominos and did puzzles with them. Since the center has a kosher kitchen, we took our lunches across the street and ate in Corona Park and played on the playground for a bit before heading back inside. That afternoon I had a very interesting talk with a gentleman who lived there named Salvador. He is an Italian man with 4 children, whom he does not see often. He explained to me that they live far away and with their own children and work they do not have the time to visit him often. This hit me hard and made me feel sad for him. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have no family around and no visitors; whenever someone from my family has been in the hospital or a nursing home, they always have at least one or two visitors a day. We also talked about faith. He said he no longer believed in any religion. He only believed in his mother and father and good people and bad people. After his parents both died, he did not believe there could be a God. He explained to me in very broken-English what he experienced as a child and that loosing his father at such a young age along with what a priest in Italy did to him as a child, he left the church. When I asked him about whether he believed in Heaven and Hell he said “no”. I kept discussing this with him as I did not understand why he believed that people choose to be good or bad but that does not affect them after death. He believes that when you die, that’s it. You get buried and there is no more. He does not want to believe that there could be more, just that people can be good or bad while here on earth and there is no real reason to choose either, just however you wish to live your life. He told me that he thought that what I was doing was being a good person and almost made me cry. Once we were back at the church we stayed at, we had a break to change and relax before dinner and our night activity. Our dinner was soft tacos and/or taco salad. (A note about our meals at Youth Works — all of our breakfasts and dinners were prepared by different work crews. The breakfast crew woke up early to go to the kitchen and prepare breakfast before anyone else was awake. While down in the Club Room for breakfast we would also pack bagged lunches for the day. Dinners were also prepared by a work crew. And both breakfast and dinner dishes were washed and put away by a work crew.) On Monday night we headed to Rockaway Beach for our evening activity. We were unable to go swimming due to the time and the riptide, but the boys kept busy playing football while the girls played Face and talked by the water’s edge. We then headed back for Club where the group was able to share “Yay! Gods” and “Mad Props”. “Yay! Gods” was a way for them to share how they saw Christ working through another person (or people) that day and “Mad Props” was a time to encourage others for doing good and setting up to the plate that day. Club also included some praise & worship along with a teaching/witness from one of our Youth Work’s staff members, Daniel. We then broke into our small groups. I had the same small group as at Steubenville, expect my co-leader was not Lynn as she had headed home. I was paired with Steve, who even though he was new to the group, was able to guide and lead the kids so wonderfully this week.
July 28th
Tuesday was very similar to Monday. My work group went to the same work site. The only difference during the day was instead of walking across to the park, we jumped in our cars and drove to the Marina at the other end of the park for lunch. We headed to the marina to meet up with another work group who was painting benches that day so they would have some other company besides the 5 of them. Leaving the Assisted Living Home was hard, even though we had only been there for 2 days. We made such good relationships with the people there in that short time, we didn’t want to leave them. We learned that one of the older men that we took for a walk that day usually sits in the Rec room doing nothing and not interacting with the others. We not only took him for a walk, but played cards with him and brought him to the Exercise room to play catch. Knowing we had helped one man do things he wouldn’t normally do made me see how much good we really were doing. We headed back to Jamaica to meet up with everyone. After break we had some pizza for dinner before heading to Corona Park in Flushing, NY for a photo scavenger hunt. In our work groups we needed to get photos of the following:
  • a picture playing with a borrowed toy from someone in the park
  • a picture dancing with Julio (one of the YW staff members)
  • a picture spelling a word in the grass
  • a picture being as relaxed as possible
  • a picture with a stranger acting out a scene from the bible (our team borrowed a little girl and took a picture of the nativity scene which won most creative picture)
  • a picture of human bowling
  • a picture with the ice cream lady
  • a picture catching a frisbee or football mid-air
  • a picture of a human pyramid in front of a historical person
  • a picture jumping like kangaroos in front of Australia on the Unisphere
After the photo scavenger hunt, we had some free time in the park before heading back for Club. Instead of small groups on Tuesday night we had mass said by one of the priests from our Church who came down just to say mass for us.
July 29th
On Wednesday we went to a different work site. The Giants & the Jets spent the morning planning two days of Kids Club. Kids Club is a day camp for kids in the area to come from 12-3 everyday for a safe place to play and learn about God. We played with the kids for a while, then brought them to the park across the street. The park has fountains that they kids used to fill cups, bottles and bags to get us drenched. We were soaked and the sun was not out, so we were cold too. We took a break from playing with the kids to pray with them, sing some songs and then did some arts and crafts. When it was time to pray, I lead the group in prayer where the kids would repeat every line after me. We thanked God for our friends, for the fun we had, for a new day and the like. When I finished praying, a boy no older than 6 or 7 added a line to his prayer — he didn’t want to be killed that night. This really got to me. It’s not something that I have ever had to pray about; it’s not something that I’ve ever had to think about. Hearing a little kid have to ask God for this blew me away. I can’t imagine being in a place where this is something that you need to ask for; I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I live in a safe community and don’t need to worry about this even though many people do have to worry about it. This little kid wasn’t the only one who touched me and make me realize how blessed I am that day. For dinner on Wednesday we served and mingled with the community at the soup kitchen that the church we were staying at has every Wed. night. We ate dinner before the soup kitchen opened to the public. When people started coming in, many of us were cleaning up our dinner. I ate dinner with two of my friends and since one of them was off to serve dinner, I took the liberty to clean up all our dinners by combining the garbage together so I could stack the plates. When Javier was on his way to the garbage with a bowl that contained the combined remnants of 3 half eaten salads and fruit salads, a man stopped him to ask if he was going to throw it out. When the man heard that the food was headed for the garbage he asked for it and despite the fact that it had already been eaten from, he took it to eat it. Knowing that someone was eating my leftovers that were headed for the trash, leftovers that were the combined parts of two dishes from each of 3 people really hit me. I realized that I have a privilege to trow away food I don’t want or like. I knew that throwing out some of my food wouldn’t mean that I would go hungry. I knew I still had snack later that night and would continue eating 3 meals a day for the rest of the week. This guy however didn’t care that he was eating my leftovers because he hadn’t eaten yet that day. He wasn’t guaranteed to have a meal the next day. He had to hope he got to the soup kitchen before they ran out of food for that meal. I’ve always been told that I was lucky to be from Ridgefield, that I had all these privileges and opportunities that others didn’t. This whole week, especially Wednesday showed me this. Once the soup kitchen ended, we headed downstairs to the underground. The youth minister had a presentation and brought us a speaker to talk to us about truly being free from things so we could put God above all. After that we had WAR!!!!!!!!! It was the largest, most complicated card game of war I have ever witnessed and I will not explain it to anyone unless they are there to witness it. After war we had root beer floats, my small group/work group made 100 water balloons and we had our final small group.
July 30th
Thursday was almost the same as Wednesday, however instead of planning for Kids Club we went to work sites for the morning as well. My car went to a day care center and played with the kids there for a couple of hours. Patty and her crew worked the soup kitchen at the church where we have Kids Club and the Jets headed to do some prep for a VBS. After our morning ministry sites and lunch, we all met for Kids Club. Since it was the final day of Kids Club for the week, it was water day. We had a water balloon toss and bucket races before heading to the park across the street for a sponge fight. Again, we all ended up soaked and freezing, but it was worth it for the kids to have the fun they did. After Kids Club ended, we packed up and headed back to the church to dry off and change into wet clothes. We had a little break and then headed right back to the church where Kids Club was at to have a community Bar-B-Q. There were a bunch of kids from Kids Club there with their families and a bunch of people from the soup kitchen that afternoon. Once the cookout was over, we headed back to the church we were staying at for one last time. We went down to the Club room for our final Club and then spent our church group time debriefing the week.
July 31st
Friday morning began at 5:40am when all the girls woke up as quietly as possible to sneak out before the guys could come up to wake us. Once the boys’ found the sleeping area empty, we returned to finish packing up our bags and packing the cars. We ate some breakfast and then cleaned up the two buildings we were using. Once everything was cleaned, we closed with the Youth Works staff and headed to mass at a nearby Catholic Church. After mass, all but a handful of us pilled into the cars and headed for Jones Beach. While it was an extremely overcast day and the riptide was rough, we had a blast. We went swimming, the boys played some football and we hung out on the beach getting terrible sunburns before heading home. Fortunately we were able to get over the bridge and about half-way home before the rain hit, and it hit hard. We al headed back to St. Mary’s before heading home for showers and some much needed sleep.
I know this post was long but I still feel that it does not do my week justice. There is so much that I witnessed that cannot be put into words and described properly. Three of the seniors made a movie that shows more of the week and you can watch it here. Plus I’ve got tons of pictures you should check out on Facebook. It was a week truly just doing God’s work and serving others. The youth grew and bonded; the chaperones learned from the kids; it was everything you could ask for from a mission trip and so much more.
That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

a month after going awol

>It’s been far too long since my last post. Life has been just so crazy lately, but crazy in a good way.

Work has been crazy busy and stressful but I got a new position that I started last week. I really like my new job and enjoy what I am doing more than what i had been doing. A whole bunch of my friends finally are back home, or were home briefly, and I spent a lot of time with them catching up and just enjoying. Plus the weather had been great on the weekends, and therefore I spent as much time as possible outside getting my vitamin d intake.

This past weekend I went on a retreat with the youth group that I work with. It was in the middle of New York at Camp Deerpark. I really enjoyed this retreat as it was not one in which all the Core Team (the adults who work with our youth group) had to ‘work’ all weekend and put on a retreat for the students. This was for all of us. It was only for the graduating seniors, college kids and the Core and we were all there as retreatants. Not only was this weekend good for me because it has allowed me to kick start my spiritual life back into gear, but it reminded me who much happier I am and how less stressful life can be.

This weekend we split into three small groups and each group had different books we read and discussed. My group consisted of my friends Dylan and Andy, a new Core memeber Sherry and a senior, Jen. Since I did a bible study with Dylan and Andy last summer, I was a bit used to these type of small group discussions with the guys. Sherry is very new to the Core and I didn’t really have a chance to get to know her much until this weekend. Same with Jen; even though she has been in the youth group all year, and she had my name for secret Santa (she made me an awesome drawing that is hanging on my bedroom wall), I never really had a real conversation with Jen until this weekend. We read What Does GOD Want? by Michael Scanlan, T.O.R. This book was exactly what I needed right now; perhaps that is why I picked this track as one of my top choices for the weekend. While we did not have time to finish the last three chapters (which I am working on reading this week), we read each chapter as a group and discussed. The whole book is “a practical guide to making decisions”. While I have sometimes been able to figure out what God is asking me to do in my life, there are many times that I do not want to head in the direction He is taking me. By thinking about it and discussing this weekend, I was able to realize that there are many other things the God is asking me to do that I either ignore or do not attribute to Him. I have decided to make a conscious effort from now on to first decide what God is asking me to do and to put that ahead of my won agenda.

Asides learning about making decisions, and making the right ones, I also made a decision about how to handle the stress at work in my life. Friday was a very stressful day at work, even though I took the morning off to see Dave Matthews Band perform live on the Today Show. It was such a long afternoon at work and when I left at 5PM I was in no mood to see anyone, but I knew that I needed to put it all behind me so I could experience the most from my retreat. By putting it behind me and leaving the stress that work causes at work, I was able to have one of the best weekends in a long time. I realized that not thinking about work when I’m not there makes everything less stressful. It’s not like I have work that I need to be doing away from the office, so why should I bother and let the stress my job can sometimes cause become a factor and take away from the rest of my life? So after not thinking about work for the entire weekend, I went to work this Monday morning with the plan that I was not going to let work stress me out and I was not going to stress over any of it when I was not in the office. By doing this for the week, I feel like an enormous weight has been removed from my shoulders. The combination of this and my new position have allowed me to enjoy everything else, including my reading. I was able to re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the past 8 days, though I read nothing Friday-Sunday. This was a great surprise that I still am able to get through the books quickly as I have every intention to re-read books 3-6 before Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince hits theatres, and then I will re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to finish out the series, yet again.
But it seems that I am getting off on a tangent as I am tired and still must finish packing as I am headed to Boston this weekend for the Great Boston Beer Marathon with some friends from college. It should be rather a fun experience.
That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.