The first thing I did that morning was wash dishes. I came out of the cabin, all bundled up, and joined the others at the eating area, and was assigned the job of cleaning those ubiquitous red bowls. Once I did that, I was then switched to a different station, to serve hot cocoa into said bowls for the thousands of European teens and twentysomethings that were barely awake and freezing early on this French October morning. It was a kinda fun job, actually. Then something magical happened... magical for me at least. It started snowing. Sweet little snowflakes, shy and infrequent, landed all around me... on the hair of the girls passing by, on the benches, and onto my hands as I scooped the cocoa. I laughed out loud at the surreal place I had found myself on my 21st birthday: an ecumenical community in the countryside of France, surrounded by youth seeking solace and affirmation in all matters of Faith and God, trying to keep warm in a cold like I've never known in my inadequate jackets.
It was a very memorable and beautiful day. The small group I was in with some earnest kind German girls gave me a birthday card, I frolicked in a field and watched the sunset with some of my dear friends that were on this European adventure with me from home, and during dinner had Happy Birthday sung to me in four different languages. And then that night our group gathered for our last night in this community and invited all the friends we'd met to meet us there to sing guitar songs and praises. Dozens and dozens came. I was pulled to the center to be by the guys playing guitar to help lead the songs. The lyrics to the songs our group knew so well from home were passed out to the young Germans, French, Polish, Dutch, and Italians.
And then we sang. We sang and sang. Some of our new friends sang along, some watched in awe, and some were crying. Some from our group had cheeks shining with tears too. It was truly, I would say again, magical. A better word would be heavenly.
By the next night we were in Paris. Some said to me that we could then celebrate my birthday in true 21 year old fashion. But I knew that I'd already had the most memorable 21st birthday anyone could ask for, and that I would remember it sweetly forever.