*Disclaimer* Title is a joke but this is some serious and kinda heartfelt-ish so...
As I type, I am doing some nice social-distance service in Cape May, NJ, at the Marianist Family Retreat Center. This is honestly just as much of a vacation as it is service. I have been doing some family quarantine with my dad and my dog for far too long, so getting out of the house and doing some service has been a huge relief for me. Within our ministry at the center, the program is meant for families, usually 5 or 6 at a time, to spend their time going through daily themes and using those themes to learn more about their families and their family lives. One of the daily themes of the week is ‘affirmation,’ and on this day the staff, including myself, try to emphasize the importance of recognizing the gifts in the people you love in order to form better relationships with them.
Someone always gives a sort of ‘witness talk’ about the daily theme in the morning of the program, and tries to incorporate some sort of personal family story into the theme to make it seem more real to the families. When I was asked to give a talk about my experiences with family affirmation, I honestly did not have a lot to say. As some of you may know, I have grown up with divorced parents, and also had a strained relationship with my mother, sister, and much of my family for nearly all of my life. I needed to dig deeper to find out what ‘family’ actually meant to me.
Family for me has not always been my blood related siblings, parents, and cousins. Family for me is so much more than that. Family has been my cousins, my teachers, my friends in highschool and now college, but a big recent example in my life has been every one of you. You all started as friends, and became a family to me. When I gave my affirmation witness talk, I did not take the usual route of talking about family experience, I discussed how important affirmation has been in my relationships with every one of you. How important that factor has been in transforming my relationships with all of you from friends, to a family.
Every one of you has many gifts that makes my relationship with you special. You all also have helped me recognize many gifts in myself- gifts that have led me to feeling confident in my position now, and helped me be ready for the upcoming chaotic year. I honestly didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into running for president this year, and me and all of exec, as well as many of you with the vagueness of our return, honestly have been struggling to grasp what this next year of APO might look like. This is a question we are still deciphering, but as information comes out, we will strive our best to make this organization stronger than ever, despite the setbacks of quarantine.
We are all pretty aware of the changes we have made as a chapter to the bylaws, but COVID-19 has thrown yet another curveball into the equation. We all knew the changes we made to our chapter would require active and passionate brothers, but now this is ESPECIALLY TRUE. Next year is going to be different in many ways, but just as much as exec works hard to roll with the punches of both new bylaws and the CoronaVirus, we will need the passion of brothers like you to get through this. Every brother will not only have a voice, but will be a KEY part of this organization next year in one way or another. We NEED that passion from everyone to get through this year.
So to make my point clear, affirm your brothers, point out their positive qualities, make it clear that just as exec is who we always look at for leaders, YOU ALL CAN BE LEADERS AS WELL, and this leadership is so so SO important for our function and success. I want this environment of encouragement to create this family feel that I got between everyone. Not only will you be encouraging and improving APO through affirmation, you will be making lifelong friends through the bonds of leadership, fellowship, and service. Both of these components of taking on leadership roles, and becoming strongly bonded through fellowship, will be so important for the future of APO, especially in current circumstances. I really encourage all of you to keep that in mind as we begin to think about the fall semester. I would love to see this organization rise out of such a chaotic time stronger than ever, because if we can get through this, we can get through anything, and I believe that we can ABSOLUTELY make this happen.
Can’t wait to see ALL your wonderful faces in the fall (maybe faces with masks but whateva)
In Brotherhood and Love,