Last Friday, I took a personal day from work. And was out in the freezing morning cold at 7:30am. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?
I was asking that very question when the first group of high schoolers walked up to Lucas Oil Stadium for the annual National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). They were holding Starbucks, decked out in matching T-shirts and crazy hats. I said my obligatory "Good morning, everyone!" and they shouted back, "GOOD MORNING!"
Wait. What? When I volunteered to help out at this conference, I'll admit, it was a way to get a free ticket in. To actually be moved by the volunteering part wasn't something I expected.
Then, high school kids and chaperones alike are looking me in the eyes and saying, "Thank you so much for being out here," and "Have a great day!" I looked to my left and noticed a dear friend of mine, not all that enthused (shall we say) about the Catholic Church but agreeing to work with me, get this sudden burst of energy too from being with these kids.
At a break, I said to my friend, "People are awesome." Because it's true. People ARE awesome. They are complex, reflective, demanding, and desiring but have the power to make a crappy day into a good one or vice versa. People have such a hold on us whether it's because we desire to please them, can't get enough of them or can't stand them. What is that inside of the human person that makes it SOOOO in your face? So life changing? So powerful?
A priest named Fr. Giussani definies our greatness to our "religious sense": this collection of needs and desires that we have that longs for Whoever created it. (Because, let's be honest. We could have never dreamed up how we react in front of others, longing for them, hating them, being inspired by them, etc.)
Fr. Giussani claims that when paying attention to our religious sense and those of others, we find the path to God because only God makes sense of the religious sense. (Make sense? ha.) So, as I'm standing with my "atheist" friend Josh welcoming NCYC youth I'll never speak to again, freezing my BUTT off at 7:30am on my day off...I'm ridiculously happy and wouldn't have traded the moment for anything. God was there--in my and Josh's hearts wanting to be a welcoming face to those who were walking up the steps AND in the thousands of youth and chaperones who recognized we were standing there. My "people are awesome" comment revealed a much more profound truth about WHO MAKES people so awesome. And I'm ecstatic that HE WHO MAKES people awesome knows my name, too!