College can be one of the most exciting periods of our lives. College life has brought me so much joy, friendship, love, and community. I remember packing all of my things back in August, ready to embark upon the next chapter of my life as a college student at Texas A&M. I packed my clothes, some books, some pictures and my microwave. I was ready. On August 18th, I moved out of my home, drove a whole fifteen minutes down the road to my new dorm room, and my new life began. But as Christmas break approaches, it is time to return to what used to be familiar. It is time to leave our community at St. Mary’s and Texas A&M for a short while and go back home.
For many, this thought can be exciting and comforting. We’re mostly looking forward to spending time with our family who we have not gotten to see much these past few months. Seeing old friends. Sleep. Home cooked meals. But if you are anything like me, you are not necessarily looking forward to the chores you are going to have to start doing again, the decrease of time you get to yourself or with friends, and having to surrender the freedom that you have grown so accustomed to these past few months.
But… this is what love requires of us. This is what family is. Loving our family is pitching in to help things run smoothly. It is doing the dishes after dinner so that your mom or dad does not have to. It is taking out the garbage when it’s full. Offering to babysit for your siblings so that your parents can have a date night.
Loving our family is not limited to these things, and your family might very well look different from mine. But these are a few simple, tangible examples of ways to start. That is the beauty of love. To love is to start with the measly tasks, the ones that seem to be insignificant, but to do them with a heart full of joy.
As I sat down over Thanksgiving break and attempted to write this blog post, I was constantly being interrupted by my siblings or parents wanting me to play with them or help them with something. Frustration began to set in and I groaned silently about how much I had to do. How could I write a blog post about loving my family if my family kept distracting me so much!? But, when I finally decided to set aside the things I thought I had to do, I felt peace. It dawned on me that God was calling me to love my family with my time. That meant putting the laptop aside and going outside to throw the football with my younger brother or waking up earlier than I was used to for family breakfast. Sacrificing the time I wanted to have to myself became a gift I could give to my brothers and sisters and parents.
What would that look like for you? Maybe you could make coffee before your Dad gets up, or bring your mom her favorite takeout at work. Eat lunch with your sister at the middle school cafeteria. Spend an afternoon watching Hallmark Christmas movies with your Grandma.
Finally, loving your family might mean surrendering the freedom that we have grown accustomed to in college. It is letting your younger brother drive instead of needing to be in control (assuming your brother has his license, I am not advocating for driving illegally) or letting someone else pick the music that plays in the car. Not complaining when you have to watch Home Alone for the twentieth time.
As we return home, let’s remember that our absence has left a void. People have missed us. They’ve been waiting for us to come home. For some of us, our younger siblings have stepped up into new roles since we’ve been gone. Maybe mom turned your room into her craft room or Dad’s new office. Hopefully, we can respect these freedoms and changes. Part of love is realizing that the world does not revolve around ourselves.
While our vocation is to be a student, we have a higher calling to a perpetual vocation of love. We will not always be a student. One day we may be married or religious or ordained. We will have careers, spouses, kids, more responsibilities, friendships. Our worldly roles will change throughout our lives, but we are charged with a heavenly vocation that will never change: to love. And it starts by loving your family, as Mother Teresa said: “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”
As we go home this Christmas, my prayer for us all is that we can walk through those familiar doors and choose to love our families. If we only loved when it’s easy or convenient, how little would our love be worth?
Gig’em, and see you in 2019!
Joseph is a Chemical Engineering major at Texas A&M and grew up right here in College Station, TX. He’s an active at St. Mary’s and strives to bring God’s love to everyone he encounters through the joy that He has given to me.