Landing. It may seem like a natural thing to land when you have flown half way around the world and back, but it isn’t as always easy as you might think. This last post about the conference really is about the ending of one thing and the beginning of another and that is why it has taken me so long to write it. Physically we landed on solid ground in the United States on July 17th, or maybe the 16th depending upon if you are talking wheels down or getting through the door of the plane and deboarding. I truly didn’t land until this last weekend, long after we got back from Australia, so let me explain.
The final portion of my adventure down under was the presentation that I was part of. It was on the morning of the last day and was the last official event of the conference. It was a great deal of activity to get there since we had to get all of our baggage and take it to the campus with us. Then again so did just about everyone else attending. As I stood in the lobby, though, going over in my head what I was going to be talking about I found myself standing next to a woman named Cass. She was one of the main organizers and leaders of the conference and I had watched her guide us through the week of events with apparent ease. As we stood there she turned to me and asked one simple question. Did this make up for Yale? I was floored. She knew what had happened, what my reaction had been to the last conference and she, along with several others, had orchestrated this conference to be different.
I smiled at all of the thoughts that were going through my head and simply said “yes, this has been an amazing experience and one that I was beyond my wildest expectations.” She then explained that she never wanted anyone to ever be treated the way that I had been, to feel how I had felt, at the previous conference. It was her goal to make sure that never happened again to anyone of any faith. I thanked her and we both realized that it was time to start the presentation and so into the conference room we went. What I spoke about doesn’t matter much to anyone other than those attending; what does matter was that the content was accepted with open minds and open hearts that some chaplains struggle to do their work based on resources while others not so much. My fellow presenters and I were split – two with resources, myself and one other without. I then watched transformation happen. Chaplains of a various Christian faiths were saddened and appalled that minority faith Chaplains struggled to do the same work and they were amazed (at least the ones that talked to me later) that we continue to do the work without financial backing. As I told them, we are not a faith culture that asks for donations every week. When we ask it is because there is a true need and the community responds as best they can.
It was then time to come home and a good portion of us rode the same train to Melbourne to either catch flights or find rooms for the night. There are plans for the next conference and I do intend to go wherever that might be. I do have four years to plan for it! The next day we boarded our plane and flew home. When we made it to JFK you might think that I landed but our travels were not done. The following day we were off once again. A festival where I co-facilitated a full moon ritual, attended classes, spoke to many old friends and learned how to sleep again. Leaving that sacred space I came away with much to do over the next year and I will get to it all.
This last week was laundry, catching up with work, figuring out why the cat is clinging and beginning to tear apart our kitchen for remodeling. Yes, now I have truly landed back into life and back into the new adventure of moving forward from a once in a lifetime conference. I say it is a once in a lifetime conference because next time I will have a different perspective and probably a lot less apprehension about what it will be. Next time I will be seeing friends and colleagues rather than jumping into the unknown. As for now, I have landed. A weekend of good food with my daughter-in-law with music to match was just what I needed to get my feet back on the ground