Marcus MtCastle, 128 TCCS
We sit in a circle, unsure of just what we are about to do. It feels normal. We’ve sat in many circles together. Our knees have overlapped often – sometimes comfortably, sometimes not so much. We came to this place with 66 fresh faces, but this circle is smaller. There are 48 of us here now.
We’re instructed to take three stones from the center of the circle and then string them onto the bracelets we will soon tie onto each others’ wrists. This seems to be a nice fusion of cultures. The Thai string tying tradition, but with an added flair. One stone to represent group 128, one stone to represent our community, one stone to represent our service.
Before we finish the tying, Khun Rumpai begins to speak about our group. Our achievements, our personalities, our journey in this country. When she finishes, Khun Kathryn follows her lead. We quickly realize this microphone is going to make its way around the circle, allowing each of our voices to be heard.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this at first. I’m terrified I won’t know what to say. I’m excited to hear what others are feeling. Above all, however, I’m content. I feel safe in the circle, with these people. And that is intoxicating. I look at Meg sitting next to me and squeeze her hand a little tighter.
I don’t remember a lot of specifics about what other people say. I don’t remember their words, but I remember the feelings I had when looking at their faces. As they speak, I try to focus on a memory of that person. I’m trying my best to feel into as much of this moment as I possibly can. I’m trying to soak up all of the emotional energy buzzing in the air.
A few people make comments about the people we’ve lost along the way, ensuring we won’t forget a single person who has been in the circle with us before. I think of everyone I can. From the person that left our first week in Thailand to the person that left a week before this conference. Their memories are still in this circle with us, though they themselves are on the opposite side of the globe.
By the time the microphone gets to me, I’ve already forgotten everything I want to say. Just like the words of everyone else, I don’t remember what exactly I said into that microphone, but I can tell you it was from the deepest part of my heart. I remember I was crying. I cried before, during and after my turn. I haven’t cried in front of that many people in at least ten years. It’s perfect that these people are the ones who have broken this record of suffocating my feelings. They have seen my most true self, have fiercely accepted him and made him feel unashamed for being who he is.
This may be my last memory of a lot of these people. A lot of them I will never see again. But each and every one of them has made a lasting memory on me, whether they realize it or not. We’ve been through hell and back. I am proud to be a member of group 128. It is a privilege to have served with and been affected by these incredible people.
“This is the America I want to be a part of.”
To read more from Marcus check out his blog: Don’t You Read This