It is hard to believe that in less than 48 hours we will be back in Texas. We have each had very unique experiences and been taught lessons that we will continue to learn from and reflect on for the rest of our lives. Before I left home someone said to me, “You are going to have an experience that many will only dream of.” This has been undeniably true. Last night we all gathered to have a final dinner together before we leave this place we have grown to love. We each took turns reflecting on the lessons we have learned and sharing memories with each other. It was so hard to specifically define the best moment of this incredible adventure, but after giving it some thought, I knew which experience had been the most impactful for me. Halfway through our trip, we left Florence to spend three days in Rome. On our second day we had the entire morning to ourselves. At this point in the trip, exhaustion was setting in, emotions were high, and morale was low at 6:30 in the morning. However, five of us managed to drag ourselves out of our blissfully air conditioned hotel room and trek to St. Peter’s in Vatican City
We were determined to be some of the first people in line to climb to the top of the cupola on St. Peter’s Basilica. The temptation to complain was high as we climbed 300 steps and had only made it halfway to the top. We completed our climb within a strenuous half hour. Upon stepping out of the stairwell, my breath was taken away and I felt tears of awe fill my eyes; the climb was more than worth it. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life, and pictures cannot do the view any justice.
Regardless of a person’s religious affiliation or background, the sweeping magnitude of Vatican City is inspiring. It was at the very top of St. Peter’s that I remembered someone telling us that people never asked “How much?” or “How long?” when building the beautiful, historical places of worship that we have seen throughout Italy. The construction of the beautiful churches took resources that, at the time, were scarce and many, many years to complete. It was in that moment that I was amazed at man’s ability to pour out energy into something greater than himself. On top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, I determined that I would never again ask “How much?” or “How long?” when it came to being a part of something bigger than myself, something special. That bigger thing is different for all of us. If I have learned anything on this trip, it is that people are to be loved and cared about, even when it’s not convenient. Life is to be lived to the fullest, even when we are exhausted. Joy is to be sought after every day and risks are to be taken. We can never hold back and never ask “How much?” or “How long?” when trying to make our world a more beautiful and loving place.