Time for Something New – Orientation, November 16, 2017
I was hesitant when my cousin texted me telling me she had something for me to do. But I could sense her enthusiasm and excitement for the Bid for Bachelor and Bachelorettes through text, as clearly as you can sense the sentiment from the ‘k,’ text. So I asked when the event would be, got a couple more details, and said ok.
Although I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, I have only recently moved back after years of living away. It wasn’t my first choice to come back, and had I been able to, I would have stayed where I was. But sometimes life gets messy, and as they always say, “You can always go back home.” So with somewhat of a poor attitude about my hometown, I started a new position and settled back in to the West Side, hoping it wouldn’t be for long.
My parents and friends who have always stayed home told me I needed to change my attitude. They were right – if I want to enjoy life, I need to make up my mind to enjoy where I am, in the moment I am in. In the midst of this transition back to Grand Rapids living is when I received a text from former bachelorette, Hannah Garcia. She said, “You’re perfect for it! You have to do it, it is so much fun!” In the couple times we saw each other leading up to the Orientation at Bar Divani, she told me how some of the friends she’d made doing this event will be life-long friends. She explained the feeling of being involved in such a good cause, and how she had no doubt I’d benefit from being around such influential and good people.
I marked my calendar for November 16 at Diviani, and both looked forward to it and felt anxious about it for the days leading up to it. I rode with Hannah, glad to be walking in with someone who had experienced this before. It was completely out of my weeknight routine – home, gym, dinner, etc., and I liked the change as much as it made me uncomfortable. In the days I’d come home and visit friends in college, we’d walk up and down Ionia Street bar hopping, and at that age, I was more outgoing, loud, and vivacious. The night of Orientation, back on Ionia street, I was a totally different person: more reserved, and a bit quieter. I had confidence, but a quieter version than I once had. Staying close to my cousin’s side, I took in all the unfamiliar faces. I had this preconceived notion that I would know at least a handful of people, as Grand Rapids often seems like a small town to me – with that everybody knows everybody feeling. But I was happily proven wrong. Aside from my cousin, I didn’t know a soul in that room. I had seen one or two faces that I recognized, but everyone I spoke to that night was a new acquaintance.
There were so many types of people – many outgoing and ready to talk for hours if you’d let them, and many quiet and seemingly unsure of what they’d gotten themselves into. Everyone made their ways through the room, and something I noticed was the reactions of people who’d done this before seeing ones they’d met through this program in years past. They were like family, exchanging hugs and kisses, asking about kids and parents. It was very evident that this was a community, and that those involved were not only lightly involved, but that they had a real connection to the program, many coming back year after year.
After hearing Michelle, Christine, and Sophia speak, I was sure that I had made the right decision to attend that night, marking the start of a change for me during my time back in Grand Rapids. When I lived here before, I was oblivious to FFCF, and now I had the honor and opportunity to be part of it. Before hearing Sophia speak, I had only known one person – only as an acquaintance, if that – who had CF. I had not heard much of her story, but she died in her 40’s. Sophia’s positive outlook on all the life that she has left to live and her obvious strength made me believe that the acquaintance I had known would have been very proud of her.
As I stood on the corner of Ionia and Fulton that evening, waiting to cross the street heading back to our car, I told Hannah that I was so happy to be involved in something that benefits something or someone other than myself or my interests. I can’t say that I’ve done anything like this before. Along with that, I have a calendar of events for the next couple months, during which I am positive I will not only change up my normal routine, but more importantly gain a different outlook on the community and city of Grand Rapids, and most importantly, help support a community who does so much good. Although the point of participating in this event is not to benefit myself, I can’t help but notice already that if you do good, you will receive good. I am honored to be part of the good that is the Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis.