“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I have said these words at least thirty times already today, and I haven’t even had lunch yet. As people filter in off Broadway in Manhattan into the sanctuary, I am struck by how random these brief interactions feel, yet I also manage to feel a real connection with many of the people on whose foreheads I have rubbed ashes with my thumb. It seems odd to tell stranger after stranger to remember that they will die, that this life is brief, this life is a gift, and we are all connected, at the very least because we come from and return to the same place, inhaling and exhaling the same breath of life on this earth in between. 

This became so clear to me during my time as a YAV–that I had only a brief amount of time with these people in this place and that, while brief, a real connection was made, whether with a host family, volunteer roommates, random strangers on the street, people in our site placements. And these connections change and shape us. 

During the last night of my YAV year in Guatemala we rolled out a large canvas labyrinth and the six of us–five volunteers and our site coordinator–walked the labyrinth in silence together under the stars. As I would pass one of the people with whom I had shared my life over the last year I could feel the electricity and heat from their body for a brief moment before we kept carefully placing one foot in front of the other, taking us each on our own path. It was as if we had this moment of pause, to remember that even though we were going different directions, our paths would brush up against each other every so often, reminding us that we were not alone. 

The season of Lent is a time of reflection, remembering, and discernment. It is a time to focus redirect our lives toward what is important, essential, and life-giving. And, hopefully, we will live into what we find and remember is important, essential, and life-giving. 

Let us remember what those relationships, experiences, insights, moments, and challenges were during our YAV years that help us connect with what is important, essential, and life-giving. Let us connect with those things and let them guide us as we continue traveling this journey. And let us remember those who are just beginning their journey as YAVs as they discern where God may be leading them to serve. 

During the season of Lent we will have weekly reflections written by YAVA. If you would like to write a reflection–it can be in essay-form, poetry, a photo or other piece of art, etc.–please email yavalumni@gmail.com.Image