Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | By: Brianna

A Reflection (from HS Senior Brianna)

Guess what, I'm still cleaning my room.  It's becoming increasingly clearer that it's going to be a summer project that's going to take approximately forever.  Well, hopefully just the summer, but forever is an option, I suppose.

Senior year of high school, I took a class called Justice Seminar.  It was one of the choices for a religion class senior year, and it was the only time we got to choose something different in the religion department.  It was either Justice Seminar or Theology Quest (in which everyone was placed by default if they didn't "get into" Justice).  Though Theology Quest sounds like it would be a really cool video game that has you searching for Jesus and gaining lives by collecting the host or Catholic artifacts...I thought that Justice would be more fun.  It was really heavy on reflection and discussion, and there was also a service aspect.  Today I found my "reader" with all the articles we read, and I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that I should probably recycle it because all it's doing is gathering dust.  Inside this reader I discovered that I had bookmarked my reflections on some of the articles.  So I'm going to share one of those here.

This is a reflection based on a chapter from Henri Nouwen's Out of Solitude called "Care" and also Henri Nouwen's "Report on the Possibility and Desirability of Love."

As Mr. Nouwen said, it seems as if our expression of indifference has been the only time we use the word "care," and even then, we are using it incorrectly.  A person who cares is a person who "instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand."  Maybe it's arrogant to say that this statement along with the remainder of the paragraph convinced me that I am a caring person, but it did.  Either that, or extremely inarticulate.  Whenever my closest friends are having trouble, or just having a really bad day, I'm the friend that they go to who will listen to them, and just be there.  Maybe it's because I can never think of what to say at those moments, but sitting there feeling helpless along with the best of my friends is one of the main ways that I can express my love for them, and how much I care.  By offering to split an entire container of ice cream between the two or three of us, I feel like I'm doing something, even if I'm not offering the sage advice that I sometimes get.  It's the friends who are willing to just sit on the phone and listen to me rant that I really appreciate because I can tell they care about me, even if they don't know what to tell me to "make me feel better."  It's not really something I can explain, because I have a feeling if I did, it wouldn't have nearly the same impact upon me as it does right now.  A friend allows you to be yourself.

The quote, "...that it was better to suffer than to lose self-respect by accepting a gift out of a non-caring hand," confuses me.  It sounds a heck of a lot like charity, but I'm not completely certain.  It sounds like the explanation of the poor refusing help because they're "too proud," and I never really understood that.  Seems I still don't.

I agree that our society is preoccupied with "taking" and "power," because we are afraid of each other.  We're nervous about someone stabbing us in the back because if they figure out our deep dark secret, they'll use it against us.  And that makes sense.  Every man for himself, right?  But it isolates us.  It distances us from each other.  We have to constantly look over our shoulder to make sure that we're not being followed, and we never feel safe.

"When a man cries, when the walls of his self composure break down and he is able to express his deepest despair, weakness, hate and jealousy, his meanness and inner division, he somewhere believes that we will not take and destroy him as if a voice told him, 'Don't be afraid to tell.'"
This quote really stuck out to me because it's kind of like revealing your complete self and just announcing, "Here I am, take me or leave me."  Nouwen seems to be saying that we have to let ourselves be vulnerable before we can love and be loved.  I mean, the most repeated advice you get before, after, and during Kairos is "don't be afraid to open up."  And I wrote a reflection about the importance of opening up before.  Really, opening yourself up to feeling other people's hurt, and allowing for the possibility of yourself getting hurt, that's what love is.  We have to open up that oyster shell of our's, as Nouwen puts it, and let our loved ones see the pearl within.  But we are afraid of what others will say about our pearl.  We are afraid that we'll intimidate people by our willingness to share, or the gleam of our pearl in comparison to someone else's.  But just as Marianne Williamson said:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
We really have to learn to love ourselves, and open up in order to allow the people around us to do the same.  If one person turns on their light, then the others can't help but follow, because how can you be afraid of the dark if all the lights are on?  If one person opens up, and loves, then the people around them will learn to love by example.  Maybe that's idealistic, or completely off the point, but it would be such a valuable change from taking love to giving love or sharing love.

So it seems that senior year of high school Brianna was pretty profound.  Interesting.

"Somehow we know that strength is often hidden in weakness and it is exactly there, where love becomes visible."
- Henri Nouwen, "Report on the Possibility and Desirability of Love"


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