To experience Happening is like being born into a new world for the first time. I went through Happening #88 and when I left I had trouble adjusting to the “real world.” It was like, while I was at Happening everything kept going and it was real. It almost felt realer than my day-to-day life at home. Now I had no clue what was happening next over the hours of Happening, but the constant “surprises,” as the staff called them, didn’t seem like surprises to me. It felt like life; you never know what is coming next but you go along with it anyways. Now that I am home again, it is surely different, and I’m not sure I am the same person I was before last Friday night when I entered St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
I learned many lessons that weekend that not only built my faith but maybe even changed who I am in general. I think some of the most important lessons I learned were on faith, prayer, healing, and the power of love; all lessons I have to continually learn as a peer minister. I was actually one of the people to give up their phone for the entire weekend, and I actively participated in all the talks and faith walks; all those things are very important and helpful to me but I think what made the experience even better was my family group. Scarlet, Siera, and Christina were all wonderful people that brought loads of discussion to the table, however the famous Dan Spicer held us together and pushed us out of our comfort zone- in a good way. He was relatable and always knew what he was talking about. He went above and beyond to help us grow in our faith and as a person in whole, and to just be there for us. If it wasn’t for him, I am not sure I would have got as much out of Happening as I ended up getting.
The ending of Caritas and the emphasis of love is what ultimately made me cry and realize something I never thought about before; I am loved. I mean I know God loves me and my family will always love me, but I never thought my friends loved me. I knew they were my friends and probably would be for a while, but ever since I moved to Kansas two years ago I’ve struggled with fitting in with a new group of friends that have known each other for years. Every piece of Caritas I received let me know now much I was loved by them and by God; their prayers worked. I understand what love and acceptance does to a person. When someone feels loved and accepted by those around them, it’s a warm and happy feeling that usually follows with a smile or even a tear. Other than that it can’t be described!
Caritas is a wonderful gift, but there were mainly three items I received that had incredible significance to me. The first thing I pulled out of my bag was a small card that read, “Become who God made you to be” (Psalm 139:14) and it had no name on it. I think everyone, including me, struggles with identity, and I feel like I found a big chunk of who I am because of where God has taken me in life. Also on the front of each bag read the words, “What if God was one of us,” and if the song continued it would be, “just a stranger upon the earth.” Then the common thread of people among earth just hit me in the face. Even if people are totally different by race, gender, religions, moral expectation, income, sexual orientation, talents, you name it; we all have been touched by God even if one does not believe in a god.
The last and probably most important item of Caritas was when everyone wrote on each other’s back-tag. This was a chance for people to write their own Caritas to anyone and everyone around. We had received Caritas all weekend long and now it was time for us to give it. I tried my hardest to write a message of love and God’s creation within the person on everyone’s tag. I gave it to friends and even people I didn’t know and people who were standing off to the side not getting much Caritas and not giving much Caritas either. While I did this I realized others were writing on my back-tag. When I took it off as I climbed into the car I saw all the loving messages people left me, but I did not read a single one. I just stuck it in one of my Caritas bags and saved it for when the day was right. As I headed back into the real world, it took all my strength not to reach into my bag and read the back-tag, so I prayed. Ultimately I knew that, with God, it would be alright.
Trevor Mahan is a freshman from St. John’s in Wichita and a peer minister for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas Youth program.