As I walked out of the house where all my new friends were and I passed the church where I had spent 22 of 24 hours the last five days, a sadness clutched my heart. I had spent so much energy in the warm and welcoming walls of that building. I had learned about some of the most powerful tools anyone my age could have. I had forged friendships that would last a lifetime. I couldn’t help but feel that each step I took was taking me away from all that.
I was headed for a lonely train ride to a lonely bus ride back home, where I’d be hours away from anyone I’d shared these days with. It was hard to keep positive with that in mind.
As I sat on the train and I gazed out the window, I saw dozens of buildings, and something slowly dawned on me. I began to grow fearful. While I was at this Gathering, my thoughts had revolved around all the things I could do. As I looked out, I realized how much I would not be able to do. In this city alone, there were millions of people affected by the complex social and personal problems we had been identifying. There were surely hundreds of people trying to help the way we were. I realized how difficult it would be to unite all these solution-seeking individuals, and how little they could do to disrupt these issues which affect all of humanity.
But then I remembered something. I remembered the things I learned, and the way I felt my eyes and mind opened to the world. I remembered the ideas that had been shared, and the way my heart filled with hope and soared with inspiration.
And I remembered the powerful bonds I had made with twenty people in the meeting rooms of the church, where we slept and ate and shared and laughed together. These people were the shining heroes of the next generation, and these bonds filled my soul with a fire and passion that would warm the coldest nights and light the darkest times.
As I ride this bus, I recognize that this is a cold night, and a dark time. That fear I felt is still there, and my concerns are real. We face the monoliths of climate change, systematic injustice, and social oppression, and they are formidable foes. But I will not forget the lessons I’ve learned in the past five days, nor the enthusiasm that filled me so fully. And finally, I can never forget the people I met. They are so truly exceptional, and their skill, determination, and decency give me hope for not only my future, but that of all of humankind.
Author: This post was written by Nick Gerken, Iowa City SoS Program Leader, after attending the Chicago January Gathering, an event where 26 Solutionaries from around the nation came together to the Rogers Park Methodist Church in Chicago for five days to learn about Grand Aspirations and plan for the upcoming summer.