I walked up to the dorms of [the college where the RFC Gathering was being held] and saw a circle of people waiting. My heart started pounding as I realized that I was the last to arrive and everyone had already met. I saw Robby, Elli, and Jenn, the big hearts and brilliant minds that make the RFC such a welcoming place. After getting oriented briefly and reassuring my mother that yes, I would be ok without her, and yes, I would call if I needed her (despite the fact that I have lived independently for a fair amount of time) I joined the circle. And let me say, as a person who has experienced a lot of new social situations and a lot of tense introductions, this was nothing like that. I was welcomed like an old friend, people came up to me and genuinely wanted to check in about how my journey was and to find out more about me, what I do, and sharing equally of themselves.
Throughout the weekend we shared jokes, concerns, lively discussions, and new perspectives. I found myself in awe of these amazing young people who are brilliant, passionate, and always questioning. These were my people. It felt like summer camp for really big kids, I didn’t have to worry about anything. Meals, taken care of! Transportation, done! Scheduling, masterful! My biggest concern was, writing workshop or art, swimming or nature walk (these can be very challenging decisions).
The Gathering reminded me of an experience when I was a counselor at a summer camp a few years ago when we were designing the activities and we wanted to incorporate a day themed around family. We spent a great deal of time discussing how to include this theme in a way that would include all of the different kinds of families that exist. We ended up having a day focused on “family of the heart.” Our heart families can be incredibly large and stretch great distances, they can be the people whom we live with and see every day or the ones who teach us about the world, ourselves, and how we fit.
The RFC is really one big heart family where we find support in our hardest moments and ongoing struggles, as well as share in wonderful, joyful weekends that fill us up with the knowledge that even though we are different, even though we may not always be appreciated or encouraged in the actions that we take, we have a community out there that “gets” us.
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