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“Live the Fourth!” The Fourth of July you might ask? Not quite. I mean the Fourth day of the Kairos Retreat, when we made resolutions and the Kairos spirit was at its peak. Kairos means a spiritual time-a time that can’t be measured in minutes or hours. On this retreat, my senior class devoted four days to self-exploration in the soft hills of Toccoa, GA. As a student leader, I lived Kairos twice, once in a condensed version on the leaders’ retreat, and again when I led my own table group through the experience.
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Many people have asked me what the Kairos secret is, and while there are tangible secrets, those aren’t what “make” the retreat. The real secret is that after only a few hours at the leaders’ retreat, I talked openly about topics I wouldn’t normally share: my fears and goals, my sister Ali’s illness as a baby, and my love and respect for my boyfriend. Perhaps that wouldn’t sound strange with close friends, but the other student leaders weren’t people I knew well. Sure, I saw them in the halls and we occasionally chatted, yet while they had classes together and hung out outside of school, I was an outsider. But once we started talking, the Kairos spirit prevailed and the barriers disappeared.
Despite my excitement about sharing the experience, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to lead the table discussions well enough for my group to experience the Kairos they deserved. However, once the retreat started, I was on a high, carrying a notebook scribbled with thoughts from the discussions while Jolly Rancher sugar coursed through my veins and the Kairos soundtrack-songs the leaders chose for each topic-ran in my head. As things progressed, my doubts were replaced with the realization that while it was up to me look out for anyone who wasn’t comfortable with the questions or who was scared to share something, mostly I was just another attendee, finding insights about myself and my group like everyone else.
On the second day, I gave my speech on Integrity. As I stood at the podium tapping my foot to Billy Joel’s “The Stranger,” I knew that my leadership wasn’t about standing in front of the room and giving the speech as much as it was about inspiring reflection. It wasn’t always starting the conversation but rather sharing my own stories so that others would be comfortable sharing theirs. And it definitely wasn’t forcing people to contribute, but instead making them comfortable enough to volunteer. When my group dedicated its Kairos symbol to me on the third day, I realized for the first time what my guidance meant to them. Perhaps I’m not the Student Body President, but part of Living the Fourth for me is helping others by fulfilling my leadership potential. Sometimes I’m in the front giving that speech, but other times I’m in the middle of the crowd organizing the event, and the rest of the time, I’m in the back supporting the one onstage. At Kairos, I realized that I embody all three aspects of leadership and that all are equally important.
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