Learning Community #1 - First Encounter

How will you let hope surprise you? This prompting question for the upcoming Holy Family’s Young Adult Trinity Ministry event, “Hope: An Unexpected Visitor” (October 20) stirred during my First Encounter a few weeks ago at our Learning Community large group gathering. When we transitioned into dyads to practice a First Encounter, I hoped to shy away from the exercise, yet I was left surprised beyond my imagination.

As everyone paired up, there were three of us left--Fr. Tri, David and me. Truth be told, I hoped that Fr. Tri and David would pair up to relieve me of my social anxieties of being “on” in a conversation. I have the tendency to pressure myself into having the perfect words to say and having ideal questions to ask in order to feel accepted. When Fr. Tri motioned David and me to pair up, I took a deep breath and said a quiet prayer in my seat before I walked across the room to meet David face-to-face. I prayed for the gift of surrendering and asked the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation. As suggested in our handout, I offered my current worries and preoccupations and entrusted them to Jesus. Upon meeting David, I remember smiling as I drew my seat close to his and studied his facial expressions. Despite my distressed nerves, I tried to live fully the present moment with David.

Although we were asked to share about our Galilee experience during quiet prayer, my conversation with David took a detour. The majority of our fifteen-minute conversation involved David sharing some of his deepest desires, challenges and hopes surrounding his loved ones. He allowed himself to be seen as he spoke from an impressive place of trust and vulnerability to a “stranger.” I was intentional about giving David permission to share through my nonverbal cues; I smiled and nodded my head. Verbally, I said and asked very little. I was genuinely interested in and inspired by his story of courage.

To my surprise, David was quite effusive about our encounter. He thanked me for being a significant GIFT to him that afternoon. Unbeknownst to be, according to David, I “opened the door” for him to share freely about his life, particularly details he often keeps guarded. Both he and I were in awe by how much we were able to connect during a short period. In our own ways, we chose to let go of ourselves--David’s open sharing and my trust in Jesus leading us--created space for Jesus to shine through our worries and preoccupations.

After our conversation, I lifted up gratitude to God. I expressed gratitude for the gentle gift of David and for the privilege to hear his moving story. There was palpable sadness in his eyes as he shared about one family member. I felt glimpses of his aching heart and I shared this with Jesus. I asked Him to pour healing and peace on their relationship. I also asked Jesus to help David to continue to take steps towards safe risks in order to be seen and loved. Through David’s openness, I found greater confidence in my simply BE-ing with others so Jesus may reciprocate His BE-ing with us. With deep humility, I asked Jesus how I could let hope surprise me more and more each day.

- ThiThoa Ton