Letting Love & Light Shine on Spring Break Immersion!

Hello everyone! Hope everyone had a great spring break! As mentioned in my last post, I spent my break participating in Holy Cross’ Spring Break Immersion Program, which is organized every year through the Chaplain’s Office. This year, I traveled to Mobile, AL to immerse myself in the First Light Community, where I shared time with both the core members (i.e. individuals with intellectual disabilities) and team members (i.e. assistants and caretakers) who make up the community. First Light Community operates very similarly to a L’Arche community (where I traveled last year!) in the sense that they both prioritize celebrating life by cultivating a community centered around love. And during my time at First Light, it is safe to say that I experienced nothing but love.

Over the course of the week, my group members – all Holy Cross students I didn’t really know before – displayed such kindness, grace, and compassion, and I am honored to now call them all friends. Meanwhile, the core members at First Light radiated so much joy, which allowed friendships to flourish by making each seemingly simple moment feel so special. I remember one night after dinner (we shared most meals with the core members after completing our tasks/chores for the day) a couple of us were locked in an intense game of Uno with some of the core members and team members, and we all were laughing and joking around as if we’d known each other for years. I honestly don’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did while in community at First Light. I also loved learning about each core member’s life in a more intimate conversational setting as we went on walks or raked leaves outside. (Side note: it was absolutely beautiful down there – the sun was much-needed!) At First Light, I was so touched by how natural the relationship building felt, as if I didn’t have to work to ‘earn’ friendship and everyone accepted and loved me just as I was. Everyone was so open to sharing their stories and spending time together, and that gave us the space, as visitors, to feel comfortable sharing parts of our lives as well.

Another highlight of my experience within the First Light Community was participating in weekly worship. It was so beautiful to see core members, team members and other community members gather together over a shared love and devotion to faith through singing songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “Amazing Grace” and offering points of wisdom during the sermon. Finally, the last day spent in community featured a community lunch and dance party with the entire First Light Community, complete with a blessing as we prepared to head back home.

Aside from the formation of countless new friendships, one major personal takeaway from spring break immersion this year was the reminder to slow down. I learned to embrace the simplicity and peacefulness of life and to more deeply value the love that is shared with others. I am working to prioritize ‘loving for no reason,’ in addition to fully and fearlessly immersing myself in experiences that spread authentic joy.

If you haven’t already noticed, I could spend all day raving about my spring break experience. I will recommend spring break immersion tirelessly to anyone & everyone, as it serves as a reminder of what’s really important in life. Aside from disability rights sites, other spring break immersion sites focus on food insecurity, homelessness and sustainable living, among others. Although the activities and communities may be different, the mission is still the same, and we all came back to Holy Cross with a full heart and a bucket full of blessings.

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