2021 Pledge Testimonial – Anna Whitney

I, like so many, have struggled through Covid-19. I’m lucky enough to be part of a wonderful school that I truly love. I transferred in during 10th grade and became deeply enmeshed in the community, but considered my time to be limited and precious given I only have three years. Losing my junior year spring and much of my senior year to Covid-19 was devastating. Even now, when I am one of the few who can attend school in-person, it all feels like a weak, diluted version of what I once had. The amount of grief and loss I feel for the simplest, most normal things is something I could have never anticipated.

The many losses of Covid-19 have not only touched my academic life. A few years ago on the most recent pilgrimage trip, I visited Szekelykeresztur with my father, and I can say it was life changing. First Parish and the partner church committee opened up a huge door for both of us. The friendships formed over there mean a great deal to me. Over the last summer I was to spend six weeks living with a family in Szekelykeresztur, immersing myself into the culture and becoming more deeply connected to the church community there, but of course that trip was cancelled. To not be able to return and reconnect was very upsetting.

Although I cannot visit them very soon, I have found observing their community and learning to appreciate how they live to still be beneficial to me today. I noticed when I was over there that without fail, the youth from their church, whether they were 12 or 18, would come hang out with us and listen to European club music, play games, or dance and just have fun. It didn’t matter if they had school the next day or not, they always found the time. Growing up in America, I’ve always learned that I need to devote most of my time to and always prioritize work. And while they certainly took their education seriously, they hit a wonderful balance between school and life that allowed them to take advantage of the opportunity of getting to know us. Witnessing this community’s approach to work has been very helpful. Specifically, finding a college has been an especially difficult process this year, but being able to identify elements that I like about the Transylvanians’ community, like being able to work but also have lots of fun together and taking time to be spontaneous, and then seeing if I can find them in a school has helped guide me to understanding what I personally want out of a community.

First Parish offered me a life changing experience. Traveling with other parishioners to a different culture, despite the years that have passed, remains incredibly relevant and enriching in my life, and I am so grateful for that.