The planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers… . It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.
It is common knowledge that come May, I will no longer be an undergraduate at Notre Dame. I will have a fancy piece of paper with my name and “Bachelor of Arts” written on it. In this fun stage of preparing for the inevitable, a lot of people ask me, “Hey you! What’s next?”
I typically roll my eyes, laugh, or otherwise shrug off the question. I’m not just being flippant; it’s a hard question for me. Unlike my friends who are interviewing for jobs, applying to grad school, and/or making engagement and wedding plans, I am, for the first time in my entire life, the girl without a plan.
Let me put this into perspective (and feed my ego a little at the same time- forgive me the self confidence boost). I was the kid who took so many APs in high school that I came into Notre Dame with 36 credit hours. I could have graduated in three years, but instead I decided to go abroad (twice) and double major and double minor. I have made good grades in college and held some rather respectable internships. I am writing an honors thesis. I am that girl.
So are you applying for grad school?
Are you at least taking the GRE??
Do you have any jobs lined up?
Well, then are you applying to nice post-grad service programs that will give you a place to live, a salary, and fellowships for grad school later on?
Good grief, Laura! Are you at least marrying that boy you’ve been dating for almost four years?!
Not any time soon. He’s planning on doing a grad school program that involves living in community, so marriage is at least two years off.
EXPLAIN YOURSELF, WOMAN.
Ok, ok. Here’s the deal. Ever since I lived at Bethany House in between my freshman and sophomore year, I have been really passionate about working with homeless people. It is a unique form of service, both very challenging and very rewarding. Homeless people have nothing left. They have been told by the world at large that they are worthless and disposable. What they need most- more than programs, more than skill sets, more than even material possessions- is love. Not broken, human, imperfect love, but the selfless, ever-present love of Christ. Bethany House was truly a home for many lost and suffering women. Something about being a part of that home captured my heart in a special way. Christ was present there. Grace filled every room, on our good and bad days. I grew in faith and love. All of which is to say: I think my life calling is to work with homeless.
Ok, that’s great, but couldn’t you at least go to grad school??
In what? Social work, public policy, theology? I’m just not ready yet. I need to focus my passions more before I pick a narrow grad school program. Honestly, I might never go. I could see my life playing out in a way that I just stick to my job and being a wife and mother. Fine by me 🙂
If you have to go do this service business for a while, can’t you do it within a nice tidy service program? Like a domestic Peace Corps?
There are certainly plenty such programs out there, and many of them are excellent. I admit that I crave the security that comes with these programs. I would have housing, a stipend, community, advisers, training- all kinds of support. There is even the possibility of fellowships for grad school later on. Here’s the rub: I can’t plant myself in a new community again and then uproot myself 1-2 years later. I’m not sure my heart could stand doing that again, but more importantly, I worry about those I leave behind. I focus on forming loving relationships with the people I serve. Twice now, I have ripped away from those relationships, leaving those people behind because I had to be somewhere else. It’s incredibly, almost impossibly hard to keep in touch with homeless people. Two years on, I have lost all contact with my Bethany House girls. I’m only in touch with a couple of my South Bend peeps from last fall. It’s also a bad deal for the shelter, a turnover rate like that. Anyway, if I’m going to do this, I want it to be in a place that I will be firmly planted for years to come. Meaning… South Bend or Atlanta.
There is a small chance that I might do an official “program” in one of these two cities, then just stick around after the program finishes. That way I could still ease into service-life. We’ll see. I’m exploring those options.
What are you trying to say?
The rough plan- for a couple years at least- is to just shoot for a job at a shelter I like in one of my two cities, get an apartment and support myself. Who knows what will happen after Joey finishes grad school. It’s not glamorous, I know, and it sounds pretty strange, but I think (I hope) it’s the right choice. Discernment is not my strong suit, but this seems to be what I’m being led to do.
Yes, I am continuing the discernment process. I am continuing to work at a local shelter I’m very fond of, and I’m looking around. Prayers greatly, GREATLY appreciated. Because this whole anti-plan kind of scares the bejeezus out of me. No spellcheck, not beefburgers. Bejeezus. I’m pretty scared. And jealous that Joey’s plans, and most of my friends’ plans, are working out so nicely. These are not good emotions. Prayers for peace of mind and hope, please 🙂