By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messeger
Over dinner the second night of the Vision 20/20 Convocation, Michael Havercamp, co-chair of the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee, asked me to hand him my reporter’s notebook and he began interviewing me! What were my impressions, so far, of the June 6-8 convocation at St. Ambrose University in Davenport? “It really energized me,” I began to say, as he took notes.
Michael wasn’t satisfied with my answer. He pressed me to do a little soul searching. OK, I took a deep breath and said that I had been impacted by something he and his wife, Tasha, said at their convocation workshop on evangelization teams. They serve as directors of Evangelization and Mission for St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport and regularly invite people to their home for dinner and faith-sharing. Michael and Tasha have young children at home, so it’s easier to host dinners there.
Inviting people to dinner at my house takes me out of my comfort zone. First, I don’t cook; second, I tend to work late at the office and look forward to going home and chilling out. Third, I fall a little short in the hospitality department. Organizing and preparing for a dinner party is not my gift. Finally, I worry about people declining the invitation. “What?” Michael asked. “You mean that if you invited me to dinner you think I would say no?”
So, I shared some of my “back story” with him. When our older son, Colin, was 6 or 7, my husband Steve and I planned a birthday party for him at a Happy Joe’s restaurant and invited some of his classmates. No one showed up. One mother berated me for asking if her daughter could attend. I figured she didn’t want her child to associate with my son because he has autism. The sting of that rejection so many years ago still lingers. It shouldn’t, and I admitted that to Michael.
“Doesn’t it all go back to our junior high selves, the feelings of inadequacy that so many people experienced at that age?” Michael asked. Indeed, it does. My junior high years represented one of the most difficult periods in my life, on par with the early years after Colin, now 32, was diagnosed with autism. During each of those challenging periods in my life, I felt alone.
Each of the speakers at the Vision 20/20 Convocation spoke about the importance of reaching out to others, accompanying people on the journey of faith so that they are eager and ready to enter deeply into a relationship with Christ. Think back to the mentors who impacted your life, speaker Katie Prejean McGrady said. And I did, while walking along the Mississippi River with Colin this weekend. My mentors in faith included my grace-filled Grandma Irene Arland, both of my parents and the women religious who taught me in the Catholic grade school and high schools I attended. Colin has become a mentor in faith for me. His absolute trust in God and genuine love for others who accompany him on the journey serve as an example.
Ironically, the memory of Colin’s long-ago birthday party resurfaced when I attended a birthday party for him this year at another Happy Joe’s. The room was filled with friends who love him unconditionally. It brought tears in my eyes. A long-ago prayer answered.
I re-read the “notes” Michael wrote in my reporter’s notebook. “It would really take me out of my comfort zone to invite people over for dinner. What if someone says, ‘No?’ But I’m gonna do it.”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)