Tulsa, OK – We pulled into the Bishop Kelley complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma around 7:30 p.m. last night. Our trip was completed without a hitch unlike many of our other SOUL brothers and sisters that we’ve been in contact with. We were greeted with a feast of “Cane’s” chicken with crinkle cut fries that harkened me back to my youth.  The chicken was decimated by the end of our ravenous feasting, led by Jake who begrudgingly finished the last two prices while the rest of us sat back satisfied with our successful peer pressuring of him to finish them.

We met Rachel Bower during this dinner, a Lasallian volunteer living with the Brothers.  She spun us a wild story of the time a tornado touched down not 200 feet from where we were eating. Many of our eyes widened as we gazed out the window towards the spots that she indicated. Suddenly, the giant glass wall began looking much less like a barrier and much more like potential shrapnel. Unlike our subject matter, the tone was light and playful as the palpable excitement for the coming week bubbled over.

Dinner wrapped up and we were directed toward our sleeping quarters which looked to me a lot like a conference room, but they assured us that these were the finest accommodations in all of Oklahoma. …They say that sleeping on the floor is good for your back. All joking aside, we were well aware of the living situation we were coming into–and none was more prepared for our conference room home than Gabby. As we all rolled out our sleeping pads, we were startled by the loud blaring of a machine of some sort. I turned to find Gabby’s air mattress beginning to inflate and her smile that’d be hard to wipe off. While all of our jealousy was apparent, we turned in for the night with the promise of a fun day exploring Tulsa tomorrow–yet our activities remained veiled in secrecy by Brother Richard.

I awoke in the morning at around 7:45 to Gabby’s prodding. We had made a plan to work out.

“Are you coming?” she asked.

“Yes!” I eagerly responded as I close my eyes again and lay back down.

Playfully frustrated Gabby informed me that they were leaving in 2 minutes, which was enough to rise me from my slumber. Gabby, Jake, and I made our way to the high school weight room to get a quick workout in with Rachel. We then showered and prepared ourselves for Mass at 10.

As I write this, I can’t help but look forward to what I might be writing about in 9 days. The opportunity to spend some time with kids who know a different life than I do is compelling, and as I prepare myself in prayer, I find myself balanced between excitement and apprehension. An opportunity like this comes with a great degree of mystery and a certain sense of uncertainty that we don’t necessarily always experience in our mundane lives. As well as the acceptance of a lack of control as our group melds into more of a collective. Regardless, I think that as of now excitement is winning the battle, and as we prepare for activities for the day we are all approaching the new day with a great amount of enthusiasm.

– Josh Balsiger