The chance of seconds - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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“When was the last time you tried something for the first time?” I recently read that question in a book on self-reflection, and am still processing it two weeks later.

Just now, while I’m watching my darling preschoolers play together, I’m left also pondering when exactly do we stop seeing the magic of our world with tireless wonder?

In the moments of our lives when the sad song plays and the hard choices come, we may yearn for the nostalgic call of youth and its safety. How quickly we have grown, thirsting for adulthood and its liberties.

Yes, we get to experience many things for the first time upon reaching adulthood. Some of us find joy in the first days in our careers, accomplishment in paying our first bills (and college debts, if we have them).

We walk into adult relationships and, if it’s for us, marriage and the great adventure of children.

We plan what we want in life and how to get it. We find first successes, sometimes after first failing and then getting up to try again. We get many truly beautiful, wondrous firsts in adulthood, and in that way we still touch the magic of discovery we experienced in our youth.

But adulthood offers other firsts as well. We lose people we’ve loved for all or much of our lives. We stop seeing certain things with the honey-colored veneer of childhood and must come to terms with the fact that our favorite superheroes in our lives are, in fact, just ordinary, everyday humans with flaws like everyone else. We will love people more than we ever thought possible, and then be at a loss the first few times they are hurt and we can’t fix it.

In our youth, many of us may not have paid any attention to the last day on the playground, the last time our parents held us in their arms or the last time our greatest concern was when Santa or the tooth fairy was coming to visit. Even before we reach full-fledged adulthood, many of us go through the last day in the jersey, or the last exam of school, or the last time on stage and the last time we get to be with those exact people in those exact places in those specific moments.

Time is neither cruel nor kind. It is the objective reality that measures us here. We are but single seconds in the existence of it all. I find comfort in that. I’ve been given the exact amount of time I have for a reason, and I continue to work to find it.

I have been blessed with so many beautiful firsts. In fact, I get them every day. You see, we’re forever getting new.

While it was not the first time I’ve taught my preschoolers this morning, it was the first time we were meeting each other as we are today. It was the first time I started teaching a big group of tiny humans how to throw and catch. It was adorable, controlled chaos. And the person I was a week ago would not have done it the same way, felt the same, been the same.

We are all the outcome of insurmountable chance — the meeting of our parents and how their love developed; the environment in which we flourished or fought through; the trials and successes that come with life; the random act of kindness from a lady at the store; and the shocking display of violence from someone who denies their privilege.

Every chance encounter, occurrence, second, leads to who we are now, how we think and how we see the world. We are but seconds in the time lapse of the world, and yet, by chance, we get to exist together in this stroke of the objective measurer.

So when that sad song plays, befitting the difficult choices I’ve recently had to make, and the worries of adulthood come and I yearn for simple barefoot summers and my mother’s chocolate chip cookies, I will honor the past that built me.

I will also continue to search for the wonder in the firsts I get to have each day here, and the slow burn wonder in the ongoing adventures of my one second here.

With whatever time I have left, I work to continue sewing love, sharing laughter, and seeking wonder with the fearless abandon of my 4–year-old scholars.

May your one second be full of love and light, and the wonder of firsts never end for you. Know you are loved and rooted for by this lady who is happy that in all the infinite chances out there, our seconds get to run together.

Peace and Agape,

Abby Belt
Abby Belt is a returned missioner (Class of 2018) who served in Gros Morne, Haiti. She now teaches English language arts and reality 101 at Derby High School in Derby, Kansas.