A Place I Belong
Lauren becomes a protagonist of HR Monday
This summer, the Washington, D.C. community continued our tradition of “HR Monday”, a weekly potluck and rosary held at Holy Redeemer parish in Kensington, MD. To facilitate this event, some of us gathered early each week to set up and stayed late to clean, find the owners of missing shoes, divvy up leftover food, and savor the last few minutes of chatting together. Looking back at this summer, what surprises me is that no one signed up or got enlisted for this task, we just all showed up to help. Living the setting up and cleaning up with my friends was an essential part of my week and I savored that moment as a continual reminder of a place I belong.
Often, I would be tired but I almost never questioned arriving early and staying late to help. A friend even asked me why I did not just leave and let someone else deal with it. That question really struck a chord - why could I not just leave and let someone else deal with it? One answer might be that I have a bit of a control problem and I love to help others. My own human condition made it difficult to not help. But when I dug a little deeper I found an answer that surprised me. I always viewed the middle of this event as the essential part - the “fun stuff”. Instead, what I discovered was more essential for me was the time to set up and clean up. Not because it fulfilled my controlling tendencies or made people think of me as a great person, but because I needed to put in some effort, to be a “protagonist” of this time together. The fruit was so much sweeter when I labored. Belonging in this way, I found all of my doubts about belonging disappear. After laboring, I could enjoy the food and conversation even more. I was freer because I had become more responsible for this place that has been given to me.
It was also in the set up and clean up that I made many unexpected friends. The ones helping were not my young friends, but rather the mothers of my friends - unexpected friends! These women helped me learn how to love and even more importantly, to be loved this summer. Their quiet and unassuming labor for their friends and family left an impression on me. I am so grateful to have them and HR Monday as a part of my “caravan of relationships, moments, gestures, and experiences” as Fr. Lepori said in the Spiritual Exercises.
Years ago, at my first HR Monday, I felt a bit unsettled and as if I did not belong. All of these people knew each other and were part of a movement that was still new to me. However, even in that discomfort I knew this was a place I wanted to be, these were people I wanted to follow. Now I have an even greater certainty that this place is for me, and it is clear that part of this certainty grew from a commitment to a people that I could express in the simple gesture of preparing for HR Monday each week.
Lauren, Washington, DC