My daughter returned Wednesday night from a four-day spiritual retreat called Kairos, with other students from her Catholic high school. (Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment to say or do the right thing.) Neither parents nor students were given much information about the trip; all were asked to trust in the experience and the care of the adults in charge. Monday night, parents were invited to a short prayer service for the success of the retreat and seven or eight students who had previously attended called the retreat a life-changing experience in one way or another. It sounds magical, I thought. I wonder what happens there and if it will happen for Katie.
Wednesday night arrived and parents and previous retreatants packed the school chapel. Finally, we were hushed and then we heard our kids in the hallway. The chapel doors opened and in they marched to resounding applause. They were surprised but then really surprised when told that each of them would step to the microphone and say one thing they had learned while at Kairos. They were nervous—but that was when it turned into a meeting of our hearts.
Several kids said, “I learned I am never really alone.” One boy said, “I learned that what I thought was a curse is a blessing.” A larger number spoke about forgiveness being the answer to life’s problems, to the sense of isolation and sadness. Two or three said something like, “I never knew all of us have troubles and that we all have really deep stories.” Some spoke of leaving on the first day, not liking someone, or feeling un-liked, and said how that had changed simply from getting to know each other in that safe environment. Several adults spoke of how special the students are and how their openness and honesty gave them hope for the future. (I, too, believe it will be young people who will turn the tide for the healing of our world.) All hearts had been touched by Love/God and without giving any details (what was shared at the retreat remains private), they touched their parents’ hearts, too. (I wondered if I was the only parent who wished she could have gone, too.)
The depth of their experiences reminded me of the Talking Stick, an American Indian tradition used in communities to engender deep, sincere communication. We should invite/force the members of our Congress to gather in a room large enough that every member can join the circle, and only the person who holds the Talking Stick speaks—all eyes on them, all ears and minds hearing. When that person is finished speaking, he passes the stick along and all eyes and ears are with the next speaker. The attention and respect given each speaker causes an inner shift and that person must speak from her heart. That’s how problems are really solved and that is what our children learned this week. What a gift!