I grew up going to a Quaker meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. I never truly liked going to meeting because it always felt way too long. My family and I moved to Pennsylvania about four years ago, and we continued to attend Quaker meeting. One day my mom told me I was going on a Quaker retreat. I remember staring her in the eyes and telling her “no.” We had just moved. Quaker retreats were not new to me, but the people here were. I did not know any children or teenagers my age, and I did not know if any of my current friends were Quakers. On top of not knowing anyone, this retreat was in the middle of nowhere. She proceeded to tell me all about how exciting it was going to be and how I would make some amazing friends and great memories. So I decided out of the willingness in my heart that I would go. The retreat was from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I thought by Saturday morning I would want to be gone, but then I got there and my entire perspective changed.
I was greeted by a very nice woman. She introduced me to her daughter and some of her daughter’s friends. I could tell they all knew each other, which made me nervous because I thought that maybe they would not want to add another person to their little group. The girls started showing me around and told me where to put all my stuff, then we all went outside to go meet the others. Looking back I realize how dumb I was to be nervous—they were the nicest group of people I had ever met. We all hung out like we were old friends, yet it was our first time meeting each other.
Later on, we did team-building activities and played some get-to-know-you type of games. I learned all about how people became Quakers. It was so interesting to hear everyone’s story and to relate to them. It felt like I really knew these people and that I could connect with them on a deeper level. We talked for hours and hours until we finally fell asleep. Then the next day we did it all over again. It felt like no matter how long we had been talking we could still talk for hours more. It was amazing to be able to connect with these people like friends and to relate without truly knowing each other that well. Everyone treated each other with such respect and friendliness, it was absolutely insane.
When we all sang songs around the campfire and talked all night long, I realized how much I appreciated this tight community and how much I appreciated the individuals I was with. I did not need to be on my phone the whole time or talking to my best friend because I was already with a great group of people. I am glad my mom made me go on that trip because it gave me a deeper appreciation for those around me and for the community I have.