Please accept my apologies for not letting you know sooner how transformative the retreat has been for my students. We arrived back in New Orleans after 8pm on Sunday. The students went home, slept, and luckily the very next morning we were all able to see each other again. We immediately sang together, invited a bell, and then took a nice walking meditation around the school (much to the confusion and smiles of other students and teachers J). The young man who had so much trouble convincing his mother to let him come told me that he had the best conversation with his mother the night we returned than he had had in many years. He expressed his appreciation and gratitude for bringing him to this point in his life, he apologized for all the sorrow and worry he had caused her and asked her if together they could work hard to make their last few months before he leaves for cooking school count. Many other students have asked if they can return this summer, so many of them dearly want to bring their parents. I don’t know if they will ever have the opportunity to make the trip, but the fact that they want to share what they have experienced is beautiful.
When talking with the students on Friday after having spent a week back in the reality of school, many expressed that they felt different and when walking through the halls or sitting in class, noticed how loud things seemed. Several students said that they feel so much more in control of themselves and less likely to be carried away by the emotions of the moment. Every year when we come back it is so wonderful for me to see the students look at their lives with new eyes. Just knowing that they are able to feel calm, centered, and joyful naturally has given them a tool that they will be able to return to throughout their lives. For many of them, the five days that they spent at the monastery was the first time in their lives that they had uninterrupted peace and acceptance. They were greeted with smiles, song, and understanding at every moment and around every corner.
I can never thank the entire community enough for always being so welcoming to my students. I know that teens can test one’s patience, I know that they sometimes do not have the manners that we all hope they develop as adults, and I know that they can be very loud! But I love my students dearly, I see so much goodness in them and it feels so wonderful to be able to bring them to a community in which all their goodness is reflected back to them in the eyes and minds of the brothers and sisters. Thank you again for welcoming us so openly, the paths and pebbles at Magnolia Grove become more beautiful to me every year as I know that so many of my students have walked, skipped, and danced over them with the brothers and sisters. How very lucky we all have been, and I hope will continue to be for many more years, to bring these two communities together.
With much gratitude,