Satisfying Your Hunger and Thirst

After our return from the Nicaragua mission trip, I thought it wise to touch base with the now-senior members of the group to get their feedback on the trip as well as their decision on whether they plan to be involved with WHAM next year. Traditionally seniors seem to opt out of the youth group due to busy schedules, social life, college prep, or simply because they've outgrown it. I have had a great relationship with the eight seniors who have been truly committed to the group; they were freshmen my first year working with WHAM, so we sort of grew up together.

For my first meeting, I invited Ford, Andrew, Ian and Christian to dinner at Ron of Japan. A couple of months ago, they wanted to have a WHAM dinner at that restaurant, but I told them it wasn't in the budget. So I knew that if I offered to meet them there, they might be more apt to join me. Much to my surprise all four of them showed up. There I was with these boys who I just lived with for a week and usually come off all macho and grown-up. That evening they were acting like the kids they really are.

After drinking their Shirley Temples and eating with kiddie chopsticks, (both of which I thought funny and cute - and they weren't doing it be funny!), we got down to some serious discussion. I asked them bluntly, "Do you plan to come to WHAM on Sunday mornings anymore?" They looked at me like I was crazy - and I was ready to be disappointed. But their responses were quite the opposite. Of course they made excuses: "my mother makes me go;" "my father doesn't give me a choice;" "I might as well because my sister will want to come." I was shocked and thrilled - and decided to change the subject before they changed their minds. So we talked about school and their friends and I wondered aloud if they hang out together at school. They seemed horrified at the thought of it! I learned that one is in the "jocks" clique; another is one of the "smart" kids. Two of the boys said their groups actually hate each other, so they have to act like they hate each other at school. None of them have mutual friends nor are they in any of the same classes. Interesting, because anyone walking up to our table that evening would think the four of them were best friends. That's when I realized the real reason they will continue to be part of WHAM.

And perhaps the reason why 100 people attended a beach party last week even though there was no beach (it was rained out so we had dinner in the Great Hall). Or why several new young families (who have parish friends in their neighborhood) have been participating in our summer outdoor liturgy. Or why a small group regularly attends the 9am weekday service and stay for their morning coffee klatch. Or why volunteers who swore they would never work on housewalk again are working on housewalk again.

I'd like to believe it's our moving liturgies, our thought-provoking formation, or our fun fellowship events. Or the endless pots of coffee and the bottomless baskets of donut holes. Of course these are important aspects of our parish life and what keeps our parish strong and active. But what makes people come back week after week?

Friendship. Holy Comforter has created a safe, welcoming environment for four high school boys who have little in common except that they like each other. The Eucharist has become an extension of friendships that developed on a neighborhood playground. An impromptu dinner on a rainy evening was an opportunity to visit with friends after a long, hot summer. The parish office is a place where everybody knows your name. And events like housewalk not only bring parishioners together for a good cause, but are examples of our determination, teamwork, and support for one another.

There is a line in Holy Comforter's Vision Statement that reads: "There is a thirst and hunger at Holy Comforter to be a true community and a true family." Dinner with four high school boys brought those words to life, satisfying their hunger and thirst . . . both literally and figuratively. And we didn't have to go over budget!