Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who are you? Isn't so easy to answer

Really? Two of my good friends at Loyola and I just had this conversation the other night. Who are you? No, really, who are you? How do you answer that question? You can describe the things you like such as music or going to beach, but what is the real stuff about yourself? Trying to articulate that answer is a difficult task. We couldn’t come up with a formula that provides an adequate answer and we couldn’t give just one story that truly describes us. I instantly looked to my own writing to get a better insight on who I am. Last year, my self-introduction for my writing class had to do with my love of the color pink and what it’s like being the only girl out of five children. Last semester, in my autobiographical poem, I defined myself in the interactions I have with my brothers and my favorite drink to order at Starbucks. This relationship with my siblings and who we are as a family is integral to who I am. It is the basis for what I am in love with and I am in love with strong relationships and wholehearted giving.

I truly believe I am blessed in the life I have been given and that makes me want to share the blessing with others who are not as fortunate as I am. I have recently come across this quote by Winston Churchill that sheds some light on how I see serving. Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” You are not given an option on what you are born into and sometimes you are not truly providing for yourself through your passion. However, when you make a conscious decision to share your advantages, and gifts with others, it’s the true reflection of the person you are or working to become. It speaks volumes to who you are when you give part of yourself or part of your time to serve, as the Jesuits say, “for and with others.”

I fell in love about five years ago, when I realized that the service opportunities my mom recommended for me, were actually opportunities I cared about and wanted to do. I’m the classic case of doing service throughout high school from low-level commitments of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during my lunch period to weeklong trips to aid in the rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to the struggle in the first semester of college as to what should I commit to. Eventually found myself on the Service Committee for the Evergreen Program by second semester of the first year and this year I am the Evergreen Program Coordinator for Service. And I am embarrassingly passionate about being an Evergreen and thus, even more embarrassingly passionate about an Evergreen who works with the program staff and first years students to do service.

Liz Gilbert states in section 76, “I don’t know what Ketut has in mind for me, but I’m happy to be in his life,” (229). This is how I feel when I work with first year students, the Evergreen staff, and those who I meet while serving. I am not quite sure what it is I am exactly how I will be serving or what will come of my interactions. I am always just grateful to be in the position to be able to serve. Liz recognizes her opportunity to share her gifts and in turn, receiving insight. This is how I envision my relationship with service. I am giving but simultaneously receiving. I am getting as much out of this as the person receiving. For example, the fifth graders at Higher Achievement are working in conflict resolution. We spend our time together trying to establish the importance of effective communication. Hopefully, this plays out into their everyday lives and they chose not to reactive instinctively with violence towards someone when they disagree, but to be an active listener and work towards a compromise. It might not seem like it’s working, but there’s progress. Leonard, the boy who disappeared to the bathroom for an hour the first week, now participates and let’s me be his partner for activities. This program may seem for their benefit but I’m growing, too. I’m learning how to act in a group and how to generate enthusiasm for activities that there is a low level of interest in.

However, there is another aspect of Liz and Gilbert’s relationship that is similar to my relationship with service. Fast forward to section 105, when Gilbert has not been apart of Ketut’s life in months. She states, “I haven’t seen Ketut in so long… Whenever I try to apologize to Ketut for my absence, though, he laughs like a man who has already been shown the answers to every test in the universe and says, ‘Everything working perfect,’” (314). There is the recognition that the time spent together was beneficial and meaningful. There is no need to apologize for different circumstances. With service, there is always a period where the service is no longer continuous. The semester will end and Higher Achievement may not fit into my schedule in the fall. However, it does not discredit the time and relationships built during the time when it did work.

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