Editor’s Note: DCSC volunteer Julia reflects on the unexpected, beautiful discoveries she made during a work trip to Chicago. Julia touches on friendship, self discovery, and Franciscan values throughout her writing. 

Work Trip in Chicago? Sign Me Up! 

This blog idea comes to you by courtesy of Mrs. Nichole Petty.

When my site supervisor, Dr. McCrabb, told me that I would be going with him and my office manager, Nichole Petty, on a Chicago trip to help organize and hold our 2019 Regional Meeting, I thought I would just be serving and doing some site-seeing downtown. What they did not tell me was that I would have the opportunity to stay in a retreat center in the sweet city of Northbrook, bond with my amazing colleagues, and rediscover/build upon some hidden talents of mine.

Each year, the US Catholic Mission Association (the nonprofit where I volunteer full-time) holds a meeting to gather their members for prayer, workshops, discussions, food, and fellowship. We spent weeks planning for and organizing this event, yet there was still much to be done when we arrived. Nichole and I were in charge of registration, errand-running, hosting receptions and all problem-solving needed.

You never know how much you are capable of until you are in a situation that requires quick-thinking, physical strength, and social awareness – all on only a few hours of sleep the night before. Not to mention it was below freezing outside! But for all the exhaustion, I may have found my dream job: catering refreshments, scheduling behind-the-scenes programs, greeting guests, and managing technical and logistical issues as they arose – I want to be an event planner! Not just any event planner, though; specifically, I would like to coordinate conferences and retreats, possibly even as an employee at this exact retreat center, God-willing. 

Running registration with Nichole Petty (right)

I could also just start my own event-planning business. And even though it’s not up to me to decide where people work, I can think of no one better to start a business with than Nichole! In the many hours we spent together over the course of the trip, our friendship flourished as we bonded over our love of organizing, good food, hosting conferences and our shared responsibilities. Nichole is kindhearted, good-humored, humble, understanding, and supportive. What a blessing it is indeed to find a friend within a colleague! I am beyond excited to see where this friendship takes us through this year and after my term of service ends. 

Was I disappointed that, while outside Chicago, we were unable to explore the nearby city and that free time was limited? Yes, certainly. Would I trade my 14-hour workdays at the Techny Towers of Northbrook, Illinois with Dr. McCrabb and Nichole for  a week of site-seeing in downtown Chicago? Absolutely not. Through this recent experience with USCMA, I have come to realize the truth of Charles Schulz’s quote that : “In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.” I wonder if my growing ability to observe and identify hidden treasures such as these is a result of my exposure to the Franciscan ideas of simplicity, community, and spirituality over the past few years, and that leads me to a question for you…

Reflection: Where do you see joy amidst unmet expectations? How might God be working in your life through the unforeseen turns in the road?