BY HARRY HUGGINS | October 30, 2014
As a child, I thought evergreens were the coolest trees in the world. Deciduous trees got all the attention when they changed colors in the fall and when they started blooming in the spring. They’re showy and remind us of the changing season.
I preferred the steadfast nature of the conifers, and I am still OK with that making me a huge dork. They suffer through the frigid winter and burning summer with the same thin, forest-green needles and mud-brown trunks. They smell the best (inarguably). They provide pinecones, which are always fun to find (arguably). Most importantly, I liked that they rarely changed or “died” like other trees in the winter.
Like the evergreens, I’ve been steadfast in my sense of faith since my confirmation nine years ago. My mother raised me in a very hippie Catholic Family Mass Community, so I learned very early how my liberal social values fit with my spirituality. My community at my Jesuit university supported that sense of spirituality without much challenge. I mostly made friends with non-religious people, so I rarely expressed my spiritual feelings externally, but I still felt fulfilled.
Then I started my year as a Jesuit Volunteer in Detroit. Living with five people who had five different senses of spirituality, I quickly realized a yearning within me. I heard their stories of God speaking to them and informing their decisions throughout their lives, and I respected that.
If we’re being completely honest, I envied them more than a little. In my steadfast sense of spirituality, I never had a moment I could point to and say, “God spoke to me here, and it changed my life.” I understood that God constantly speaks to us, we just have to listen, and so I knew that I just had to remain open to communications from God if I were to have one of those moments. But it never happened.
But then it did. On my community’s Fall Day of Reflection, I felt God’s message infuse my entire person. Ignatius Loyola’s catchphrases, my self-criticisms, stories the day’s speakers shared, my mom’s letters and advice—all these intersected in the most powerful God moment of my life thus far.
The message itself was something I already “knew”—it was something I understood that I had to do to be the best person I could be—but I knew it without feeling it in my soul. It was knowledge of my ambitious mind but not of my spiritual heart.
During a period of silent reflection after one speaker’s story about praying the Examen, I walked down a grassy hill in the back of the retreat campus, crossed a bridge over a noiselessly flowing stream and found a nice patch to stretch out on my back. I soaked in the autumn sun, surrounded by six evergreens and lying in pine needles.
I felt my heart accept what my mind already knew: that God is in all things, including the people who cause me stress and provoke conflict in my life; that myself and my reactions are the only parts of my community that I can or should try to change; that I feel closer to God when I am listening to people rather than judging them.
I finally and fully heard God’s message that all things are God’s gifts. And so knowing this in my mind and finally feeling this in my heart, I am prepared to take on this year aware of and thankful for all of God’s presents.
Harry Huggins was born in Chicago and grew up in just outside the city in Oak Park, IL. He graduated from Fordham University with a degree in Communication and Media Studies (Journalism) and economics. For the past year since graduation, he worked part-time as a marketing and fundraising assistant at a small supportive housing nonprofit in Brooklyn, NY and part-time as the friendliest barista in a Times Square Starbucks. He can talk about coffee all day every day. Harry spends much of his time reading (mostly novels), tasting and writing about new beers, marathoning TV shows (especially British comedies, as he grew up in a very English household) and inventing board games and party games with his friends. Harry likes to travel as often as his life allows, as far as Japan, Greece and Dublin or as close as upstate New York. Harry is working with the Neighborhood Service Organization in Detroit, MI as a Community Involvement Coordinator.