This past weekend I got to go back to my hometown for a few days. Even though I live relatively close to USC, I don’t tend to go home very often. The 6-8 hour round trip in traffic can definitely be a drag. However, I chose to make this drive because of something that’s really important to me. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was asked to help plan and run a high school guy’s retreat at my local parish. My faith is a huge part of my life, and although I was initially really hesitant about being in a leadership role with people who were almost my same age, it’s now one of the things that I look forward to every year.
The retreat consists of about 80-90 high school freshman and sophomore guys who are required to spend two nights in the mountains with no cell service and NO WI-FI. As you can imagine, the guys aren’t exactly stoked to be there at first. Most of them are there because it’s a requirement to complete the parish Confirmation program (Confirmation is a Sacrament in the Catholic faith that when received means that you’re basically an adult in the eyes of the Church). But the coolest thing is that by the end of the weekend, pretty much all of them can say that they got at least one good thing out of their days of suffering through being cut off from civilization.
A large percentage of these guys who attend the retreat come from poor immigrant families, and oftentimes at least one of their parents is out of the picture. The purpose of the weekend isn’t just to get them to grow in their faith, but also to be confident men who have the potential to make a better life for themselves and their families. Education usually isn’t the first priority for most of these guys, and it’s not uncommon for them to have to leave school to work in the fields with their parents, or to get sucked in to a life of gang violence. As people who have been in their shoes, it’s our job to show them a better way to live life, as well as introduce them to a network of brothers in their own high schools whom they can rely on.
Here’s a video that my friend made recapping the retreat: Check it out here
Without further adieu, here are a few more reasons to drive 8 hours home on a weekend:
- Do it #ForTheKids All kidding aside, the main reason I’ve come back and worked with my parish on this retreat for 4 years now is because I really believe in what they’re doing. I was in the exact same position as a lot of these guys at one point, and if it wouldn’t have been for people who stepped in as role models into my life, there’s no way I would’ve ever had the confidence to pursue a higher education. It’s a cool feeling being able to pass that on to others.
- No Smog! I love the mountains, and being able to spend a weekend in the wilderness hiking is reason enough to get in my car and make the drive. The place we camp at is called SCICON, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The weather was amazing, and running up trails with super fit high schoolers was a much needed reminder that I need to get back in shape.
- Old Friends are the Best Friends I’m not the only one up there helping out. It’s pretty awesome to see the generations of leaders who once attended the retreat as participants, and have come back as volunteers. My best friend Andrew is one of those guys, and it’s always a good excuse to reconnect and just hang out with old friends.
- Home Cookin’ I do find the time to stop by my actual house on Sunday night and see my family. And my mom never disappoints with about 2 weeks worth of home-cooked meals ready for me. Sophomore year and no dining plan equals me appreciating home cooking more than ever.
- You Think You’re Helping Them, But… For all that I’m trying to teach the guys, they teach me just as much, and that’s pretty rad. I always come back more motivated and with a new perspective. Besides, the mountain air is good for everybody.