Hills, valleys and hope: What this summer taught me to remember

By Renne Muniz


This summer was different.

It was filled with hills and valleys, but most importantly lessons and love.

The event that kicked off my summer was traveling with fellow Cardinals to the colonias of the Rio Grande Valley for the A Resource In Serving Equality (ARISE), a summer immersion trip sponsored by the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership.

Upon arrival, I was separated from the only three friends I knew.

I spent a week talking, cooking, eating, cleaning, sweating in 110 F and sleeping with seven la-dies whom I had never encountered before – and it was one of the greatest weeks of my life.

Together we played with the children of Las Milpas.

Whether it was a competitive game of dodgeball or running after Uno cards flying away in in-tense winds, it’s safe to say the volunteers and children shared in much joy.

It was great to be a kid again even for just for a week.

The last major event of my summer was staffing my alma mater’s Senior Leadership Retreat.

This year I was asked to staff the retreat for the seniors. I was nothing short of excited because my friends were staffing and I was reunited with the the-ology teachers as well as the senior class.

The day before we left for the Hill Country, three important and full-of-life staff members could not attend. Additionally, we didn’t have food for the retreat and the retreat took place in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception.

Good times, don’t you think?

But throughout the weekend not a single retreatant knew of this chaos.

Heartfelt testimonies, delicious food and contagious smiles were shared.

All glory to God.

The in-between moments, from the Valley to the Hill Country, were just as impactful.

Around the time of ARISE, my mom was diagnosed with stage one colorectal cancer. Not too serious, but serious.

She had surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston to remove the mass and will be having preventive chemotherapy done in the coming months.

To you the reader, odds are you know someone who has been affected by cancer. You probably understand the anxiety it causes within a family.

But I hope you have felt the love that blooms within the pain.

Family and friends will reach out to help the ill family member, but also help you.

We asked so many people to pray for our mom and they said yes, what else do you need?

Some stopped in their tracks to say a prayer at that moment. While my family from Oklahoma was on vacation in Corpus Christi, they went with my mom to her doctor’s appointment rather than sleeping in or soaking in the sun.

My sister, Jessica, and brother-in-law, Alex, live in Houston and had us stay with them while my mom was recovering at M.D. Anderson.

Jessica even missed work to sit with us in the waiting room for a couple of days.

While in Houston many of my relatives and friends wanted an update on my mom — some of those being ill themselves or having relatives who were ill.

People who have their own concerns to deal with wanted to help carry our load.

When my mom came home from Houston, the law office I worked at sent my mom flowers without telling me. It was a beautiful surprise to both of us.

The authentic witness of love was present everywhere.

This summer displayed how I am never alone.

Life is life and changes happen. But throughout the transitions hold on to hope.

I didn’t expect to experience the Valley with complete strangers, but I ended up becoming friends with amazing women. I didn’t expect things to go downhill before we left to the Hill Country, but that retreat was my favorite retreat to have staffed (and I’ve staffed many).

Nor did I expect my mom to be diagnosed with cancer, but she was treated so quickly and with it came abundant love and support.

You might not be ready for Fall 2017 to begin, or maybe you’re a senior who doesn’t want Fall 2017 to end.

You cannot expect all events or entirely plan the future. And you might be completely blindsided, but hold onto hope.

I am praying and rooting for you!


E-mail Muniz at ramuniz1@student.uiwtx.edu

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