Encounter Doesn’t Wear Off

7th Grade Retreat: An Unlikely Place for Encounter



Our One Word for 2019 is Encounter…and here is a story of Encounter that has the kind of depth and understanding that is the perfect crystallization of Encounter…here is a story for those who think inclusion doesn’t matter.

In the center of this pic is Mia.

She’s wearing her school uniform from St. Rose Catholic School in Roseville, California. You can see another St. Rose student in the picture, Makaela, Mia’s good friend from school.

But then, there are all of these other kids surrounding Mia and encircling her.

They clearly aren’t wearing the same uniform and don’t go to the same school.

They are from left to right:

They attend St. James Catholic School in a different city.

These kids had never met before.

But they attended a 7th Grade Retreat at a retreat center near Sacramento, California and their hearts found each other.

Almost instantly.

The parents who were chaperoning thought the girls must have known each other from another activity…but they didn’t.

Why did the girls from St. James just magnetically move to Mia and want to know her?

Why did they feel comfortable reaching out to a stranger …a stranger with a disability no less?

Why did they want to know Mia?

What did they see as valuable?

The answer lies in Encounter.

The 7th grade girls from St. James have attended a school that has had a student with Down Syndrome.

That student with Down Syndrome is the brother of a student in 7th grade…the brother of a friend of theirs.

He is known to them.
Comfortable to them.
Familiar and fun.

That student with Down Syndrome no longer attends St. James and in fact, is now in college…so it’s been awhile since he’s been there.


Once your heart has been opened, it stays open.

Once you understand difference and see the real person, not just the disability, you value it.

These 7th graders saw something familiar in Mia and they gravitated to it…not because it was something conscious…it was an unconscious familiarity…but it felt right.

By the end of the day, these 7th graders had formed the beginning tendrils of friendship.

When they go to high school, if they see Mia…or Makaela…they will go out of their way to renew that friendship.

Encounter changes lives…it changes hearts…it enriches our world.

Work for it every day.
Our kids deserve this kind of welcome.