I don't remember the last time I went sledding. Or rather, I don't remember the last time I went sledding before this past Saturday. Covered in a beautiful blanket of snow, the many slopes of Saint Vincent's campus provide ideal spots for this winter activity. While the heavy snowfall has had a huge impact on the Northeast this past weekend, I would say that Saint Vincent is quite fortunate to have received it without the biting winds that often cut through campus and through even the thickest winter coats.
I've been getting back into the groove of things here at Saint Vincent this semester, which is certainly a good thing. But, like with any good thing, even familiarity can reach the point of excess. As much as I love all of my classes this semester, there comes with academic responsibility a certain routine that develops over time that tries to consistently organize class, work, meals, etc. If students aren't careful, they can easily find themselves in a rut, worn into the ground by their own two feet.
I am a rut-dweller myself. It doesn't take long for me to find the most efficient routes to my classrooms, the best times for me to do my schoolwork (in the most efficient order, no less), and the most convenient ways to fit in that meal I skipped earlier in exchange for some extra sleep. To top it all off, I'm not easily prompted to do things that deviate too much from my routine.
I am incredibly grateful for the weekend's fresh coat of snow precisely because of how inflexible my routine can be. The cold weather provided me with an opportunity to refresh myself by sharing excitement with some friends. And while my fingers may have gone a little numb, the experience left me feeling quite warm.
The weather is a great source of opportunity because we can't control it. We can only say, "Okay, here's what we've been given," and then decide how to respond to it. So when you're a group of Catholics on a bus and you're given enough snow to leave you stuck on the turnpike for more than twenty hours, you respond to that snow by making an altar out of it and having Mass on the side of the road (photo credit to Marielle Lafaro, Tweeted by Michelle Ahrens).
What might appear like madness to some people was no doubt an incredibly significant experience to others. It was an opportunity to express courage and even joy. What is bad weather to those whose happiness comes from something greater than their circumstances?
When we take these opportunities to go sledding, or to have Mass on the side of the road, our routines are broken and we are temporarily taken out of our ruts. And we sometimes find that, upon returning to them, something is different. The things we do daily may seem less monotonous and instead more substantial, more beautiful, more significant. I can only imagine what everyday life might look like now to the people who had Mass in the snow.
As the semester goes on, and I continue to work myself into my routine, I hope that I can find those opportunities to grow and to refresh my outlook. I hope the same for all of my fellow students. Through those "out-of-rut" experiences, we can come to appreciate our routine-based lifestyles a little bit more. They are just as important to our everyday lives as the routines themselves.