Before the Young Adult Volunteer year begins, all first-year YAVs attend a week-long orientation. Each night at this year’s orientation, the same poem was read during worship. It’s called “Passover Remembered” by Alla Renee Bozarth and begins with “Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free.” You can read the poem here or listen to the poem here. It refers to the Exodus, but I have been able to come back to it from time to time and find new connections to stories of my year in Miami after each read.
This weekend, my roommates, Michelle (site coordinator), and I drove 15 hours to go to the beach (in Alabama). We were joined by 25 other YAVs from 5 different cities and we got to spend a few days relaxing, sleeping, laughing, playing, singing, and reapplying sunscreen together. Leading up to this retreat, I was unsure of how it would play out. I honestly thought it was going to be a really awkward weekend of trying to figure out how to relate to people who I only got to know for one week beforehand, who don’t live in Miami, and who don’t do the same work as me. As with nearly all of my other expectations for my YAV year, I was wrong.
Our time together was definitely filled with a lot of goofy and less-thoughtful moments, but I was able to be a part of several conversations, whether while sitting in the sand or during a guided reflection, about times of discomfort and feeling lost. I was able to share stories of the funny moments that happened in our house as well as voice my thoughts of uncertainty to fresh ears. Hearing that YAVs in Atlanta, Nashville, Asheville, Little Rock, and New Orleans experience some of the same struggles as me was surprisingly comforting. The retreat gave me the clarification and rejuvenation that I had no clue I needed. The stories I shared and heard have made me strong. Today, I’m back in Miami and have newfound energy to better seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.