They are back—the husband and my eldest son, back from Mexico, where they went to build houses, back with tents and foam sleeping pads and dusty, dirty laundry and grime deep in their hair. They are back with gifts for the family: a chicken planter for me, some t-shirts, and a wonderful wrestling mask from Rowan for Mikalh.
They are back with inspiration. They left as pioneers—the first large batch of members from of our church to go on the mission trip with the local church just down the road. They have come back having touched the sacredness of shared purpose and accomplishment.
In the parking lot, the vans pulled in, and out came teenagers, dazed and weary from the road. Behind and around them were the shadows of even more tired adults. The kids wore t-shirts with lots and lots of tiny words, almost too many to read: "I want to have billions in the bank. I want to be successful. I want all of my endeavors to turn to gold." "DISRUPTED" was written through these words all across the front.
"It says sex on this shirt, Mom," Rowan demonstrated.
In the dark, the kids couldn't stop hugging each other. They piled around one kid and cooed his name. They jumped on each other.
"I want to go home," Rowan said. "I have to pee and vomit and take a shower." Fast food—road food—doesn't agree with him.
"You can pee and vomit in the building," Mike told him. "But the shower will have to wait. We have to unload and clean up."
Rowan, unperturbed, went off, hauled tools, put his belongings in the van. Minutes rolled by and I stood and watched the kids, glowing like fireflies in the dark.
"Are you all packed up?" I asked Rowan, as he passed by.
"Yes, he can go now," Mike told me.
But I watched Rowan, watched all the kids. In the dark, they hung together like insects clustered onto life-giving plants. As soon as they started leaving, it would really be over and they'd never all be together again. They hung in hallelujahs, in hugs, in glorious filthiness—together.
Then, finally, they started to disperse. All at the same time.
"I'm going to go home, take a shower, and go back to Mexico to build three more houses," Rowan suddenly said.
"Mom," he asked me as we got into the van, "I'm going again next year, right?"
"As long as you want, babe," I told him.
"When we handed over the key," he told me animatedly "I felt something in the place where I should have a heart."
So, I've decided that I really don't care if my son earns a lot of money or makes really great grades or does really well in his sport. Those things are nice, and sometimes helpful, but what I want for him—more than anything—is what he just found: his spirit somewhere, a reason beyond himself to be alive.
It's really all you ever need.