The days leading up to the beach house social was disastrous and there was tension before the day of the event, but all of that tension was erased as we drove alongside the beach looking into the vast emptiness of the ocean. The rolling of the waves soothed us, and we arrived at the beach house in a fresh and friendly mood.
The beach house wasn’t lavishing and surely not someone’s idea of a beach getaway. There were two bedrooms downstairs and the other three bedrooms were upstairs. The walls were blue as were the couch and curtains. There was a stereotypical beach theme throughout the house with little model light houses and life savers and boats and shells and fish. The room that I stayed in had the most unique bunk beds I have ever seen. The mattresses were made out of foam and it looked more like shelves than bunk beds. But it was unique and immediately welcomed me. The house was modest but under the sun light it seemed to transform into a home.
Members were all skeptical about the house at first, but during that three day stay, some of the best youth group memories were made. I loved waking up in the morning and making pancakes while the morning ocean breeze blew through the wide windows of the kitchen. Waking up to the sound of seagull’s cries and the crash of the waves upon the shore is a really relaxing break from the typical suburban morning. After breakfast we would go down to the beach just a minutes’ walk away and frolic under the gentle morning sun. For those of us who took a bit more time to finish breakfast and couldn’t catch a stroll along the beach, we could lean out on the deck and watch the millions of sparkles playing in the ocean. As the day moved on and we retired from the beach to escape from the sun, we could be found in the room at the end of the hall playing board games and laughing. It was the only room in the whole house that was white and this added on to the movie like feel. Peeking in from down the hall, we could be seen crowding on the floor and on the bed around a monopoly board like a family on a lazy Saturday afternoon. After lunch, we could be found splashing in the waters or tanning on the deck or curled up in bed engaged in a conversation about anything or even taking a nap. Around dinner, though, we would all be back together eating our meal out on the deck and trying to take in everything that happened that day while we catch the last of the sun before it sets. When the stars came out we would be back out on the deck again to look up into the sky. Orion, our new sponsor, would use a flash light to point out Mars, Venus, Orion’s belt, which he was named after, and other constellations like the Big Dipper. At night, we would be crowded around a board game again in the living room, playing until our eye lids were heavy from sleep.
On the last night there, Venerable Hong-Yi came to visit us, bringing along a couple of members from the temple. We served spaghetti, salad, spring rolls, and hot pot followed shortly after by fresh mangos. After dinner we all gathered in the living room, sitting in a circle around Venerable Hong-Yi. Sitting beside the Venerable, I could see how absorbed everyone was in his talk, laughing at all the right times and even asking questions. It brought back memories of the old youth group and made me realize how many youth group members weren’t there. I suddenly felt empty. But a wave of laughter brought me back again. Orion was talking now. He asked us if we rather be a rabbit or a turtle. Both were right answer choices. The turtle had determination and the rabbit had skills. But the best choice was a combination of both. As a rabbit, you already have a great amount of potential; all you have to do is find the turtle’s spirit within you.
Youth group is a rabbit. We can be so much and more but we still need to find that something to keep us together. We found it at the beach house. I wish I could capture whatever it was in a bottle and keep it with me always, but I can’t. Years of Buddhist classes in youth group have taught me that emptiness is the basics of Buddhism; everything is subject to the conditions around them. Just as the water in the ocean changes with every tide, the people of youth group come and go as well. It is inevitable. So cherish every moment.