by Olivia Martin
This will be the first time since I was 17 that I’ve lived in the same place for more than six months, uninterrupted.
I haven’t reached it yet, but the beginning of May will mark six and a half months of living in Kansas City, and I must say, I’m both relieved and restless in the face of it.
The last six years have been a whirlwind of experience. They’ve taken me from the farm outside of Salina, Kansas, where I grew up, all over the world and back. Kansas has always been my home, but now I find myself split up among all my homes, unable to solely claim one.
Living in many places has taught me things that I doubt I could have learned so well otherwise, and I’d like to share three of them with you:
First, life is a gymnastics meet. And moving is the practice.
My first big “gymnastics practice” happened one hot August day when I first moved to Atchison, Kansas, to begin my undergrad at Benedictine College. Never before had I been asked to be so flexible. Moving three hours away from all the places and people familiar to me was daunting but exciting.
I spent the next couple years bouncing between living in Atchison, travelling and working in small towns in western Kansas with Totus Tuus, a semester in Florence, Italy, and a few months in Kansas City.
It eventually began to sink in that moving was never something I was going to be good at overnight, but with each move — though it didn’t exactly get easier — I could feel myself becoming stronger, more flexible. It was showing me that following the life Christ had designed for me necessitated that I be open to new approaches and new ways of living.
So, while both moving and gymnastics practice entail a myriad of stretches, training and falls, you build strength and endurance simultaneously for the flips and high-bars life asks of you.
Second, God always gives people to accompany you.
Before my final year at Benedictine, I moved to Seville, Spain, for a summer to study. I was a bit concerned about whether I’d make any friends, particularly the Spanish people who would share their country, language and lives with me.
I follow the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation (CL) here in the States, which began in the 1950s in Italy and has a particularly strong presence in Spain.
I began attending the weekly CL “School of Community” meetings in Seville. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by friends, people who were more interested in my life than I was, who showed me the face of Christ through the way they looked at each other, at me.
These have been some of the most meaningful friendships of my life, and I have been blessed to stay in touch and visit them over the years.
It has become clear that, even thousands of miles away from home and in another language, God grants friendship.
Third, home can be anywhere.
Last year I moved to Oviedo, Spain, to teach English and religion in a bilingual primary school.
It was my first experience renting an apartment, riding the bus to work and cooking all of my own meals. Again, I adapted to a new place. Again, I was given beautiful friendships. Again, I was torn between belonging to many places and no single one.
I used to stand by the classic definition, “Home is where the heart is,” then I wised up and moved on to, “Home is where your mom is.”
But while there will always be some truth in those statements, I’ve learned something truer.
I realized that whenever I felt fragmented, decentered, or homesick, I was always able to find a Catholic Church with its doors open.
It was true at Benedictine. It was true in Seville. It was true in Oviedo. It’s true, now, in Kansas City.
Home is where Christ is.
He is in every nation, every countryside, every rural village.
Nowhere is beyond the reach of Christ, for he is alive and present in the Eucharist and his Spirit remains among us, as is evident when all creatures are perceived as signs of his presence.
My time in Oviedo challenged me, more so than any other, to verify if this fact is true and if it actually has something to tell me about my life. Experience has helped me judge that it does.
With this, I would like to introduce myself.
My name is Olivia Martin, I am a new reporter at The Leaven, and Kansas City is my home.