For me, 2020 started out almost impossibly perfectly: I rang in the new year in Rome, watching fireworks over the Coliseum and eating the twelve grapes that Italian tradition states are supposed to bring good luck for the year ahead. Maybe I accidentally forgot a grape, or perhaps I misunderstood the old man explaining the tradition to me, but “lucky” isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of the way this year has progressed since those first few perfect moments.
I was supposed to spend the entirety of the 2019-2020 school year in Spain on a Fulbright scholarship, teaching middle and high school students who were absolutely overflowing with energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and more than a little bit of sass. I treasured every single day that I got to walk into school and engage in the perfect combination of insightful conversation and chaotic shenanigans that can only happen when you’re working with youth. When I was forced to evacuate Spain in March as COVID-19 hit the country, it felt like I was leaving a huge piece of myself behind. In an instant, the deep conversations, the one-on-one moments when students would let their guard down and truly open up, and the riotous laughter when low-stakes games somehow became life-or-death for the students were replaced with long stretches of emptiness and the lingering question, “Now what?”
However, if there’s one thing that I’ve found to be true in my 23 years on this earth, it’s that the universe seems to have a funny habit of working itself out in the most unexpected ways. Taking on the role of Plymouth’s Interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth has in many ways been the answer to an unspoken prayer: a prayer for connection, for growth, for helping others to navigate these unprecedented times and for allowing them to help me as well. As Plymouth’s youth face a year unlike any other, I feel so blessed to be in a position to help provide a sense of community and grounding in the midst of so much uncertainty. During my own middle and high school years, youth group at Plymouth was always a welcome source of laughter, conversation, and connection, and I hope that it can continue to be an oasis for our youth in this exceptionally strange time.
This year may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but it has turned out to be more of a blessing that I ever could have imagined. Maybe I did eat those grapes correctly after all.
Alli Stubbs is our interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth. Read more