Summer Self

Be Strong and Courageous…

this was the theme of the camp I went to this summer in Lebanon. It was called the World Maronite Youth Days, and it was the most unique experience I’ve had my whole life.

I’ve been going to Lebanon almost every summer since I was an infant, and I’ve seen pretty much everything Lebanon has to offer; Ruins, churches, beaches, clubs, pubs, sites…

But this summer was different. It felt different from before. I decided to go to the camp last-minute, and I was skeptical about it. Beforehand, the idea felt unreal, that I was going to be with Maronites from all over the world in Lebanon. I was going to see a handful of people from my own parish, in America, but in Lebanon!

Most of the people who attended had never been to Lebanon. Many of them weren’t Lebanese! But we all had one commonality,

our Maronite faith,

and our faith is what brought us,

back to our roots, to Lebanon.

Everyone was easygoing and approachable. I think this came from the fact that we came from different places all over the world, and the retreat would most likely be the first and last time we would see each other, either until the next retreat, or ever.

I bonded with people, and made friends that I know I will keep for my whole life. We were able to detach from our everyday lives, and really look inwards and renew our faith with a cloudless perspective. I believe I really tuned into my true self because I gave, and still give, God my whole self. I trust Him to lead me on the correct path and guide good people along my side, who will make me the best person I can be.

The friends I made during the retreat, were unlike any people I have ever met. Our small group of about 40 people became my family. We all still chat on What’sApp and we are baffled at the connection we all have with each other.

We all just clicked together like puzzle pieces.

I felt my true self shine through because I didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I took the time to put myself first and really listen to my soul, and what I needed to do for my own well being. Not only during most retreats, but all other aspects of my life, I have little personal time. I spend a lot of time helping others, working with others and being there for others. I have a calling for it, it’s something I enjoy. I like being people’s rock, someone they can rely one, because that’s what I want from my friends.

I want to give a positive impact on others. Everyone needs someone in their life to reground them and tell them that they are OK. The only downfall is that I haven’t found the right person to be my rock. Whether it’s a friend or a significant other, I just haven’t found them yet. I’ll know who it is when I meet them, I can feel it. But it’s just not in the cards yet.

Going on the retreat this summer was rejuvenating for me. I didn’t have to keep an eye on anyone, I could focus on my faith and my experience. Whenever I’m in Lebanon, I feel this way. I get time to think without worrying what I have planned for the week, or what my family needs me to do for them every minute of every day. I love to sit back and observe, to take things in at my own pace. I don’t like to be rushed or taken advantage of.

The worst feeling in the world is to give all your time and effort to someone or something, and not being respected for it.

I give majority of my time to my church, friends, and my studies. I’m always the one to initiate plans, conversations, everything. But I would love for people to approach me first and ask how I’m doing, or plan something and invite me and pick me up, instead of the other way around. I feel like a lot of the time I just serve myself out on a plate, and people greedily take advantage of that and then turn around and envy me for doing anything.

People only think negatively and gossip about others because they are not happy with themselves. So they rely on bringing down others to spring themselves back up. They are selfish in that way because they put their ego before other’s feelings.

My parents told me that traveling brings out your true self, and it helps you see other’s true selves.

This is very very true. I was with people from my American parish during the retreat, and I saw who each of them truly were. I’ve always known who my real friends are, and who just use me for their own benefit. It’s never right to talk down about people. God says to love your enemy as you love your neighbor. I knew people were talking behind my back. And I was really disappointed when I found out. I will always strive to treat everyone with respect. Our time on this Earth is worth more than the time wasted on evil words and negativity. It really saddens me to see people let a dark mindset take away the light and joy that one would get out of an experience.

It is difficult to always see the bright side of things, trust me, I have struggled with that, but I continue to remind myself that my efforts are better spent being optimistic about life.

So, even though leaving Lebanon and new friends was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do, I know it’s not goodbye, but rather simply a “see you soon” because God doesn’t place people in your life for no reason. Everyone you encounter leaves an impact on you. Like freckles on your face, no matter how much you try to cover them up, by the end of the day they are still there, and they are what makes you unique and beautiful.

God created us in His own eyes, so we should relish in the fact that He believes we are beautiful and worthy of being made in his flawless image. To speak poorly about yourself or anyone else is the same thing as criticizing God’s creation. We know that’s not what we were made to do. We are meant to appreciate and love one another. Being positive and compassionate with others will bring the good out in people. My hope has been renewed since being in Lebanon and surrounding myself with people with similar faith and strong positive mentalities.

These days we are constantly being bombarded with negative media and treacherous news. We witness cruel acts of violence from all over the world. Of course, during all this, it’s difficult to keep faith and hope alive. More and more people are falling away from their faith, claiming that it has done nothing for them expect provide false hope. But what I’ve learned is that the devil will try everything to bring people to his side, to fall from the light. He knows that to prevent good things from occurring, he has to eradicate hope, and to do that, all he has to do is turn people against each other. Whether over power, wealth, or faith, all of humanity will never see eye to eye, but there is always hope for mutual respect, and even curiosity to want to understand one another.

What I saw in the eyes of all my new friends was hope. Witnessing hundreds of Maronite Catholics take part in prayer and community service renewed my hope. I look forward to going to the next WMYD!

Thxoxoxoxo, H


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