THE LIFE NIGHT
Tonight Kristen Cipriani gave her testimony. You may have seen Kristen at Mass. She uses a walker for mobility; it's red and has three wheels. She attends most Adult Faith Formation events and is part of the both the Edge (our Jr High Program) and the Life Teen Core Teams. She doesn't talk much, but when she does its at a slow pace as is most everything she does. She has a disability, but what she shared with us tonight was remarkable.
She lived her life as most of us do and/or did; growing up, being a kid, a teen, dating, dancing, being awesome at life, going to college, and getting married. She worked as a Physical Therapist. At twenty-nine years old and seven months pregnant with her daughter (who is now in 8th Grade) the stem of her brain began to bleed (technically a stroke), and this particular instance is called AVM (Arterial Venus Malformation). Because of her background in physical therapy she is now able to speak to groups about living with a disability and advocate for people with disabilities in a very effective way. If you have any younger children or friends who do, you may have heard about her speaking to the Kindergartners at SEAS.
Kristen told us about her journey to get to where she is now, having to re-learn everything. As remarkable as that is, what came at the end of her presentation really struck us. She explained that she remembers what "being a teenager" is like, and that living with her disability makes her feel like a self conscious teenager again. "I am very self conscious of what others may think of me. That's the reason that for a while, I only helped with Edge. I was afraid of what you older folks in Life Teen would think of me. I am concerned about how I look, dress, talk, socialize, eat, move, etc." There was much more to her presentation, but I want to try to keep these updates short.
WHAT INSPIRED ME
1) All of us are self conscious about something. If we could, most of us would jump at the chance to change at least one thing about ourselves. Hearing Kristen's story made me (and I'm sure others) aware that we're not alone in feeling that way. How might I treat others differently if I remembered that? 2) We all struggle. Whether it be physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally, struggle is a part of life. We need each other to get through it. The importance of being an advocate for each other can never be stressed enough. After all, there's a reason it's also referred to as "The Golden Rule." What are some ways I can begin to treat the difficult people in my life the way I would like to be treated? 3) Joy is Evangelizing. Our Seminarian, Francis, shared a recent experience as we closed the night. He had a horrible couple of weeks of mishaps; car troubles, rain, just in low spirits, etc. He asks Jesus, "What is going on?" with no reply. One day, Fr David asked Francis to help fold some letters with some volunteers. He sits next to Kristen as they begin. He quickly grows tired and weary but notices Kristen keeps at it. He asked her if she needed a break. "No, not really," she replies. Francis, in his beautiful Nigerian accent, said to us that he suddenly felt as if God was saying, "Why are you not joyful? Look at her. She has many reasons to be disheartened, but she is joyful. Is she not? Get hold of yourself, be joyful, for me." After Francis had finished sharing this with us, he looked over at Kristen and said, "I did not read this from the Bible. I read it from you."
Folks, be joyful this week. You never know who our God is trying to reach through you, and we have no reason bigger than the God who loves us not to be joyful about that.