“Every encounter, as we know, calls for openness, courage and a willingness to let ourselves be challenged by the presence and the stories of others.”
My maternal grandmother was perhaps the single most influential person in my faith life and I was her favorite. Now you might think that’s a bold claim to make publicly, but this strong-willed, Italian woman unabashedly proclaimed it publicly, multiple times, to lots of people. She’s been gone more than a decade now and I still think about her more than I thought I would. About five years before she died, my cousin, then an aspiring film maker, now an accomplished and inspiring one, shared that he was going to do a documentary about my grandparents. I distinctly remember being engaged and planning my wedding, starting my career in my early twenties, and thinking "that’s nice but it probably won't go anywhere." I had too many other "important things" to do than to listen to old stories that I had heard a million times and could repeat verbatim. Truth be told, I often regret how little time I spent with my grandmother in her final years. I was close by, but life’s activities had me further than I should’ve been. The documentary hasn’t been produced (yet) and I forgot about the whole thing. However, last week, my cousin somehow uploaded the five and a half hours of raw footage and was able to share it with us. Because of his talent and the way he shot it, it was as if for the first time in 10 years, I was sitting back in their living room, listening to those stories again, and I was overwhelmed by emotion and gratitude.
As I continued to marvel in the footage, I reflected on my cousin’s wisdom to capture what at the time seemed like something so ordinary, but now, more than a decade later, was an extraordinary treasure. It reminded me how interdependent we are as humans, not just with those we share time and space with, but also those who come after us. My cousin’s gift reminded me how we need to help each other capture experiences, learn from them, and be reminded of them especially when we feel distant or alone. As a leader, how do I help capture, honor, and connect the stories of others? Perhaps I need to slow down and invest some time in the important versus the urgent. As much of the Catholic world gathers as part of the global synod to share our respective journeys of faith, let’s be sure not just to make it one other activity that needs to be done, but rather to see it as an important responsibility of a pilgrim people who have been sharing the Good News through personal witness for thousands of years.
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