“Lots of balloons popping will give me a panic attack,” cried my student as she walked into our prayer station room in tears.
Moments before, I’d given students directions about how to complete our prayer stations, urging them to take them seriously, go quietly, and pray throughout. I’d also warned them that the room wouldn’t be silent; that one of the prayer stations involved popping balloons.
Hence my student’s comment.
Upon seeing my student’s tears, I simply reacted. I ushered her out of the room into a neighboring one that was quiet… And empty. She assured me she’d be okay journaling so I left her to it, telling her we’d leave the prayer stations up so she could do them later, during free time.
I then slipped back into the prayer station room to ensure all was going well. A few minutes later, I began doing the prayer stations myself.
Every few minutes, I heard the popping of balloons – each designed to represent the shattering of a stereotype and our desire to be “one in Christ”.
When I’d written the prayer stations the week before, this was one I was particularly excited about. I expected that each time I heard a balloon pop I’d feel a sense of satisfaction.
Instead, all I felt was sorrow as I pictured my student sitting alone in another room, unable to bear the constant popping of balloons.
As I continued to progress through the prayer stations, my mind raced ahead to our next small group discussion when we’d be sharing about our prayer station experience. I wondered what we should do with this student. I figured she could skip the discussion, but then she’d be missing another part of the retreat. Or she could just listen to her peers’ reflections on their prayer experience.
Neither option felt good to me.