Congratulations to Annie Babiasz from Flint Powers High School who is the winner of this year's Father Charles Irvin Essay Contest organized by FAITH Magazine, the official publication of the Diocese of Lansing.
The goal of the annual contest is to promote insightful thought and excellent writing, and to encourage careers in Catholic journalism. The winner receives a $1000 scholarship.
The topic for this year's essay was: "During the challenge of this pandemic year, where have you found God?" Here is what Annie had to say:
"They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. While I do not doubt this is the case, it seemed to me that forming the habit of checking my plants every day happened much quicker. Every night before I climbed into bed, I opened my blinds slightly, cracked my window, and watered the small pots on my dresser. As I drifted off to sleep, my last sight was often my small sprouts swaying hypnotically in the damp April breeze."
"Pre-shutdown, I was spending on average about 14 hours a day at school. We were in the middle of dress rehearsals for our spring musical, which I was stage-managing, so between theater and homework, I barely had a minute to gather my thoughts. I didn’t mind it though; theater was where I flourished, where I was able to find my niche amongst the musicians, actors and painters. So, when the green room doors were shut on that Thursday afternoon, it felt as if the rug had been pulled from under me. Something that had consumed me was gone, and I was going to have to find something to fill those 14 hours that were now vacant. I decided to rent that vacant room out to plants. I bought little pots and envelopes of seeds and scoured the internet for advice from gardening blogs on how to keep my small seeds healthy. My fingernails were constantly caked with dirt and my T-shirt always had streaks of mud and grass stains, but I saw those things as blessings. I worked to grow my seeds and transfer them from pot to pot until they were big enough to transfer to my garden. Taking care of my plants was not a 14-hour job. It did not fill all of the time left by theater, but I realized that I didn’t need it to. Having the little moment each night to reflect on my day while checking up on my plants became something I looked forward to every day. It was something so small, usually not even five minutes, but in those few minutes I found beauty. Watching the sprouts grow each day and stretch toward the sun, I learned to find small moments of beauty and joy, and in small moments like those, I saw God."
"If as a society we have learned anything from this pandemic, it is that small actions of an individual affect the collective. In a time where the next day was not guaranteed and fear began to run rampant, I began to notice the power of positivity."
"It is in the small everyday things that we begin to see change happening. I realized that when I went to the store, I was searching for scrunched-up eyes peeking over a mask, perhaps suggesting the wearer was smiling at passers-by, or others taking only one package of toilet paper instead of two or three. In these small interactions, I began to see God at work. In these moments where I saw individuals take an extra second to reassure their neighbor that things would get better and that they would get through this, I saw God."
"For me, God did not come sweeping through my quarantine, knocking me off my feet. Instead, he sent me daily reminders about the beauty of humanity, and little by little, much like my seedlings, my faith began to grow. While I do not doubt that others had earth-shaking “God” moments in the silence of quarantine, as God often speaks through silence, that was not the case for me. I love being around people and I find that I am most myself when with friends or family, so I think it is a great testament to God that he decided to reveal himself to me through the actions of people around me. He knew that I would be paying attention to other people and their actions, and so he knew that to help me find him, he would have to make himself present in something I was already paying attention to."
"I find myself now, almost exactly one year from the day that the green room door of the theater was closed. My once messy bedroom which once was just a pit stop to change, take a quick nap and head back to the theater has been transformed, forming for me the analogy of how I found God during this pandemic. The change is obvious even before you enter my room. The light from grow lights spills from underneath my door as though it will not be contained. When that door is opened, the sight warms me and the corners of my mouth turn upward. My room is filled with various shades of green: trailing downwards, sprouting upwards, all soaking up the light. My constant, steady, small reminder of how God’s light shines in each one of us, stemming from the planting of very small seeds. What began as a small adventure to fill time in quarantine has transformed me and my view on my faith. Over time, my plants have grown and I have added new ones to my collection, similar to how my relationship with God has grown and new facets have been added."
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