A 2017 NSLF Reflection – Chris Thuring
I declared it to the congregation on that final morning, and five months on, I stand by it: The National Student Leadership Forum opened my heart. I will not go as far to say that in four days I learnt how to love; but I have no doubt that the small group sessions, the meaningful interactions, and the insightful presentations, provided the tools for me to develop my own language of love.
This has become increasingly apparent since leaving Canberra, and coming home to my friends and family. It was unsettling to realise that in four days, I grew closer to some delegates and facilitators, than some of my lifelong friends, and family. I felt that I owed it to those I cared about – and myself – to build stronger connections of love in all my relationships. I also wanted it with all my heart. Having shared my story, I felt that my exterior finally aligned with my internal thoughts, and that I had answers to the questions I avoided in my mind. I reached a newfound understanding of who I am, a love for myself, and a love for those around me. A love that felt no judgement, and that was sensitive to the feelings of others. Since that revelation, I have found that when you wholly know someone – including yourself – cynicism and resentment are replaced with understanding and love. After NSLF, all that was left was love, a love desperate to be shared.
Being inspired by the small group sessions, I arrived home to a family connected by the roof over our heads, but very distant by the emotional space between us. Maybe it was a healthy amount of naivety, or that I felt that my family were as much strangers to each other, as us delegates were on the first day of NSLF. Either way, I felt the urge to bring the beauty of small group sessions to my family. I was struck by the eagerness of my family to work at growing closer and to build love between each other. It made me think that we had always sought it, but did not know how to say, or make it. For the first time, every Monday without fail, I heard another family member’s story. It was not always easy; there were arguments, tears, tantrums, and shame, but it always felt right. Every single person around the table believed wholeheartedly that what we were doing was worthwhile, and that it was helping us grow closer as a family unit. I have grown to understand better why my parents and sister are the way they are, and the reciprocal for them, I am sure. Now we are more tolerant of our differences, say what we really think and feel, and know that if anyone should know the truth, it is our family. There is a far greater sense of love and closeness that we cherish, and seek to build upon every day. I am incredibly proud of my family, and so grateful to those who have nudged me from all different angles until it clicked.
I would particularly like to acknowledge the guidance of James and Katy-Rose Blackwood, who are so generous with their love and care. You are both fine role models and push me to build more loving relationships every day. Thank you also to NSLF, everyone involved has not only changed my life, but hundreds (if not thousands) of others through the amplifying effect of love.