You gotta be kidding

Today was our last day in Rome. I can't even really describe what an amazing experience it has been. If I had to say my highs and lows (which is a "game" my family plays) I would have to say my high is a tie between two things. It's a tie between celebrating Mass with the Pope and the experience of being in my small group during our time together in Rome.

Our small group was set up in advance by the program organizers - they were masterful. We had six members, one from Ireland, one from Kenya, one from Sri Lanka, one from Mexico (actually lives in the Cancun area), one from New York (an 80 year old Brother from the Bronx) and me.

At first I was thinking that it would be one big huge mess. You gotta be kidding, how could a group like us ever get to the point where we could have meaningful, complicated and robust discussions? It was hard to understand Maximus (from Sri Lanka) because of his accent. Eduardo (from Mexico) spoke English as his second language and we started out having to cheat with google translate for the first few days. Jane (from Kenya) was a little bossy and she kept calling me "Suzie". Ed (the brother from the Bronx) would throw out these wild ideas which were completely lost on the group! Declan, from Ireland, looked lost and truth be told he admitted that he didn't do the required homework before coming to Rome! I don't know what they first thought of me, but I'm sure they were as equally suspect of me as I was of them.

You can probably tell where this is going. I would have never guessed it on the first day, but within just a few days our group was firing on all cylinders. Maximus' accent didn't even phase me, I could understand him perfectly. Jane's bossy side was actually super helpful when we had to come up with things to present to the large group....and I really like being called Suzie! Declan got caught up on his homework and turned out to be a real gem when it came to adding flavor to our discussions. Eduardo and I bonded over google-translate. As he got more comfortable with the group, his English got better. I have to admit, if it were me I would have asked to be changed to my native language group after the first day. Eduardo turned out to be my favorite in the group. Brother Ed, well Brother Ed continued to throw zingers out there to get the group going on one topic or another. But wow, Brother Ed has an incredible story. I wouldn't be surprised if they make a movie about him someday. His entire adult life has been spent simply meeting the needs of the poor in his neighborhood. He has been a teacher, a literacy coach, an executive director of a non-profit, a community organizer and a writer - always with the goal of reaching out to the poor and vulnerable.

Tonight, our last night together, our small group posed for the picture posted here. We felt like family, we felt connected even though we live in so many different parts of the world. I’m going to miss them, but we agreed to create opportunities to continue our discussions, our work and our sharing even though we aren’t in the same countries.

The lesson I learned from my small group is that the Lasallian family is global. The Lasallian family is diverse. It is in our diversity that we find our unity. Our small group was just that, a small group of people. But the power and energy that comes from a small group of people working toward the same goal, the same mission, can be so powerful. I am returning home renewed in my commitment to teaching and learning, especially in light of my vocation to the Lasallian mission.

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