Dear Pope Francis,
I want to start this letter with a quote: “Don’t be scared of what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure you do things differently from everyone else” (Sara Blakely). I found this quote when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the night I got back from my European adventure.
I don’t have very many words to share about my trip yet. There are moments that stand out clearly in my mind, like standing among the ruins of the Crematorium and fields where bodies were burned at Auschwitz II-Birkeneau, standing outside the cell where Maximillian Kolbe was starved in Auschwitz I, and sitting in the same room at Wansee House where the decision was made to move forward with the extermination of the Jews as the Nazi’s Final Solution. The trip was entirely surreal, and I would go back again in a heartbeat.
I have to admit that I was a little bit scared before I left. I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip, and while this was mostly an exciting fact, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t get along with anyone. I was worried about how I would handle being in these places of death, how I’d cope with the language barrier while abroad, and what would happen if I lost my luggage.
I am glad that I didn’t back out because of my worries. Like the quote I started with said, going on this trip, and doing any number of other things means that I am living a unique life. I am not living a life that fits the standard mold, and I’m happy about that, even when it means that I have do things outside of my comfort zone.
While I was away, I spent a lot of time thinking about life, especially the lives that were lost in the Holocaust, and then about my own. I wondered what those people who died would have done if their lives hadn’t been cut short. I wondered what I could do with mine in the time I have left. It’s a depressing way to put it, but I was reflecting on this near the crematoriums of Auschwitz II-Birkeneau, not exactly an uplifting place.
On my way home from the airport after the trip, I was thinking about life again, and everything I had experienced. As I tried to articulate my half-formed thoughts, I remembered a goal that I had set in grade 12. One afternoon, I printed a map of Europe and then coloured in the countries that I wanted to visit, including Germany and Poland. Along the edges I wrote down some of the things I wanted to do while I was there, which included seeing the Berlin wall and the Auschwitz concentration camps. It was incredibly humbling to realize that as a result of this trip, I had crossed those things off of my bucket list.
Accomplishing these two things, and knowing that I am almost done of another big goal – completing my M.Div. has me thinking a lot about what I want to do in the future, and where I feel I am being called. God has been frustratingly quiet in the last little while, but I continue to work with what I know. Most importantly, I try to quell the fear when it comes bubbling up, because I know that it has the power to paralyze me, and if that happens then I will never move forward, and that’s not helpful either.
Putting one foot in front of the other,