Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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Leaving Holden: What I gained from my experience

"What did you gain from your experience?" many of you have asked me. 


It was the best thing I've ever done for myself.

It was more than I expected, less than I expected, exactly what I expected.

I found what I was looking for.  But I don't remember what it was I was looking for.

Pieces of me that were loosely joined, or not joined at all, somehow got gathered up into a more cohesive whole.

I learned that a piece of work, and the process of doing it, has value even when it's done solitary.


I can't tell what force gathered the pieces of me in and glued them together, but I know it happened.  What I feel is calmer, more centered.  I can look someone in the eye and say yes when I mean yes, and no when I mean no.  I can speak truth in a kindly way.  I can separate myself from someone else being bent out of shape and tell them what I think, calmly and without accusation.  I can concentrate on the task at hand, giving it my full attention, instead of doing it half heartedly while planning the next thing I'm going to do, or while thinking about what I'd rather do. 


I hope to be able to demand justice from people who have wronged me, without any thought of revenge.  I hope to be able to forgive, without making light of the situation requiring forgiveness.  And I hope to get over my mistaken belief that forgiveness requires the reinstatement of the original relationship, as if nothing had ever happened.

I need to allow this new life to grow and prosper inside of me, and to do the things that nurture it, and that help me remember that it's there; to keep the pieces of me together and not let them peel off.


I learned a couple of truths.  From a novel I read, I learned, "Something is your vocation if it keeps making more of you."  That applies not only to jobs, but to every aspect of life.


I learned a definition of hope, from Erik Erikson: "Hope is the enduring belief in the attainability of fervent wishes in spite of the dark urges and rages that mark the beginning of existence."  When hope is not present, a gluttonous response is to try to bring the future into the present, by stuffing oneself.  It is not the way to live.


I believe I will only know the effect Holden has had on me after being away for quite a while, maybe six months or a year.  And I may only see and understand some of the changes as other people reflect back to me the changed person they experience.  Meanwhile, I will simply live.


The leaving


I left a lot of people I had come to care about.  There is no more to say; only to offer the pictures below.  I got on the bus on August 29, the crowd gathered around to say goodbye to those of us who were leaving.  They wave until the bus is out of sight. 


Then down to the ferry, and Ed and Katarina waved wildly until we and they were tiny specks.  Only then did my tears come.









The ferry came...


...to take me home.



In the evenings I think of Holden, of the people, the mountains, the place.  I think of the community gathering each night for Vespers, or for Sunday Eucharist.  And somehow, just knowing that they are up there working, praying, living their witness, does me good.  A thousand miles away, and I still feel connected.
I pray that I might be able to live what I've learned.
Take, O take me as I am.
Summon out what I shall be.
Set Your seal upon my heart,
And live in me.
Amen!  Alleluia!