Sunday, June 5, 2011

Circle of Blessings

Last night we drove up to Pasadena to celebrate Ashley's graduation from high school.  The trip up to Pasadena took more than two hours.  We got home at exactly 12:34 a.m. Honestly, we wouldn't do this for just anyone.  Most of the time we're fast asleep by 9:45.  We wake up promptly at 5:46 every single morning.  Including today.

Ashley is an amazing young woman who graduated at the top of her class.  She and Caitlin competed together in debate last year.  During her senior year of high school, Ashley competed for Pasadena Community College this spring and won the national championship.  She will attend Columbia University in the fall.  More than one Ivy League school accepted her, but Columbia offered her a scholarship and so she chose to go to New York.

But none of those accomplishments would make me want to drive to Pasadena.

Caitlin met Ashley at Debate Camp up in Santa Clara.  This was Cait's second year to go to camp, but that year she had decided to try Lincoln-Douglass debate (LD) instead of Team Policy.  Because LD  debaters compete without partners, Caitlin traveled to Santa Clara alone.  She knew people at the camp, but they all competed in the team division.  The classes met separately and meal times didn't coincide.  Caitlin felt lost and alone

I called Caitlin at the end of the first day, and she wanted to hop on a plane and come home.  We prayed over the phone and I wondered what I was thinking to send Caitlin all the way up to the Bay Area by herself. Because she knew no one in LD, she had no one to go to restaurants with.  She ate alone.  She almost missed the shuttle from the hotel to the college.

Enter Ashley.  And the entire Mendez family.

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but Ashley and Caitlin started talking.  And after that the Mendez family gave Cait rides to the college.  They took her to dinner.  Caitlin had a friend.  And a new family.

They stayed in touch after debate camp and when Caitlin went to the National Tournament in South Carolina the next year, Ashley texted encouraging messages to her every single day.  It had been a tough year with her team.  A team member had accused her of treating an opponent in an ungodly manner, and instead of discussing it with her privately, the coach brought up the topic with the whole club.  He didn't say her name, but nearly every debater knew exactly who he was talking about.  Caitlin strives to be kind to everyone, and the incident completely eroded her confidence.  By the end of the season, when she was at the National Tournament, Caitlin felt like her own team had abandoned her.  Ashley's kind words strengthened her throughout the week.  I had never met Ashley at the time, but I loved her.

That summer, Caitlin considered dropping out of debate.  The whole club thing had nearly destroyed her.

And then Ashley invited Caitlin to join her club.  Channel Islands.

She only went to one club meeting in Ventura, but Ashley arranged to have the coach come to her house near Pasadena.  Twice.  At tournaments, Caitlin spent time with her new team.  They welcomed her and loved her.  It was the best season ever.  Not just because she won a lot, but because she had friends.   And for the first time ever, Caitlin felt like she was actually good at debate.  She conquered a lot of fears that year, and at the end of the season, she felt like maybe, just maybe, she might be a little bit smart.

Duane and I had a great time with all the parents from Channel Islands.  But especially the Mendez family.  They became unique and amazing friends.  We still stay in touch, but not as much as I would like.

And that's a great story.  Certainly Ashley deserves this tribute because of her kindness to my daughter.  However, there's another part of this story that I nearly forgot.  Until last night.

Five or six years ago, my older daughter Kirsten traveled up to Pasadena to meet Lina, a friend's fiancée.   Kirsten and Lina hit it off immediately, and then two weeks after they met, Lina's dad died suddenly of a heart attack.  Kirsten went up to the funeral and visited frequently after that.  Kirsten's friend and Lina ended up breaking off their engagement, but Kirsten and Lina continued to spend as much time as possible together.  And that meant becoming part of Lina's family.

Ide, Lina's mom, the principal of a Christian home school organization, asked Kirsten if she would teach a debate class, and because Kirsten loved Ide, and because she loves teaching debate, she conducted a debate seminar.

And that's when Ashley and the Mendez family got interested in debate.  And that's what took them up to Santa Clara where they blessed our family enormously.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

And this is the circle of blessings.  Kirsten blesses Ide and a group of students she doesn't even know.  And one of those students turns around and blesses Caitlin.

It's beautiful, really.   

Caitlin's senior year would have been so very different if Kirsten had decided she didn't have time for trips to Pasadena or teaching kids debate.  Of course Kirsten had no way of knowing how this would change her sister's life.

We serve.  We love.  We give ourselves away.  Not for what we'll get back, but because of love.  
We never know how it will turn out.

This time we get to see the circle.  It still makes me smile when I think about it.  We invested time and money in helping Kirsten with debate, and then we released her to do whatever she wanted with her skills.  She turned them into a way to bless others.  And then the blessing came back to us.  

There are other circles I can't even begin to understand.  The many, many people who poured into her life.  And into their lives.  And so on.  

You just never know.  
But God does.

No comments: