Monday, May 14, 2007

What to do, what to do

I returned my stack of books to the library today and popped in to see one of my professors to say good-bye. We got to talking about how the biggest problem for most of the grad students who are like me (already adults with jobs and families) is that we don't actually know what to do with all this information now that we've devoted so much energy to attaining it.

Can I do more than send money to build a well for Bono's birthday? Please.

Is writing enough? Sometimes it seems to be and others it seems the height of absurdity and insular living.

We talked about all the things that this professor is doing through Xavier to prepare the undergraduates at X for a future of engaged service that extends beyond education and career, into vocation or self-giving. And he's full of bright, exciting, practical ideas to make that happen. Yet here I sat in front of him and he agreed - that my complaint is repeated over and over again by other graduate students. Where to now, St. Peter?

As I drove away, it occured to me that this malaise and inability to find a way to make a difference is part of the condition of mid-life and suburban living and few seem to have figured out a way to solve it. Then I thought: what if? What if you and I (you and me and who ever else) thought about it a bit and really gave ourselves to thinking about practical ways we can give/serve in the midst of afterprom and soccer games, music lessons and birthday parties?

I'm tired of waiting for something to emerge on my behalf. I want to use my skill set (not try to become some super human who takes glorified vacations and calls them mission trips) to do something that matters beyond myself. So for the next little while, as I go about my daily business, I'm going to look for what might be done by people like you and me that would matter and make a real difference. If you get any ideas, send them my way. Let's compile some kind of meaningful "to do" list for ourselves. Who's with me?


R. Michael said...

Hi Julie,

...not trying to toot my own horn here but after most of my christian experience serving in various church roles I decided to help out in a local soup kitchen. I have found it immensely rewarding after dealing with pettiness found in many traditional churches. It is dirty work; and the "guests" are not always kind nor gracious...but I have a greater sense of what the gospel is about...more than I ever have in the church.

yes I am still working a full-time job and yes I drag my kids along to help sometimes but they are getting a sense of what is important and what is not...that is surely worth a thousand pew sitting sermons.

I hope you find what you are looking for.

R. Michael

Steve said...

Count me in! I, like Michael above, am involved in several urban "hands on" missions programs. In the interest of avoiding self congratulation, I won't mention them here. Email me if you want to know more. There is lots to do, making our "Sunday faith" missional in the world.

brian said...


Interesting that you should post this today.

I'm going to send you some information on something we are doing at Nexus.


julieunplugged said...

Thanks Steve and r. Michael. I am glad you both have good stuff to do! Brian, your offer sounds promising. I got the email (Have conflicts on Thursday night) but want to talk further about this with the two of you. Will be in touch.

carrie said...

I'm thinking, Julie. Right now I don't have any very original ideas, but I'm willing to keep at it. It is definitely a situation many of us are facing in mid-life. How do we actually do something with this life experience?

Under certain circumstances people do step up to the plate and just do it. Like the example you posted a while back aboutt he lady who started a foundation because of a child's illness. (Do I have that right?) Anyway, she saw a need and stepped in to fill the void. Perhaps what we need is to see a void clearly enough that we can imagione how to go about filling it and then start taking the steps.

Ampersand said...

I'm of the Mother Theresa school of thought on this one.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.

Hopefully, I'm quoting her correctly.

What I try to do, is stay present, on a daily basis to the needs all around me. Someone needs a ride or someone needs money or someone needs a smile or a hug or just a listening ear. It is harder to see these needs in the nameless strangers we pass every day, but they are there.

I'm not saying that this should take the place of grander projects or ideas, just that this is my starting point for now.

brian said...

I like what Ampersand said. I think we often overlook the small opportunities that present themselves to us each day. Or we simply don't give ourselves enough "credit" for those random acts of kindness that can make a huge impact that we'll never really know about.

Mother Teresa's quote was above the door of the church Julie and I both used to attend. That's one of the things that church does get right.

Julie, we hope to attend Thursday night. We don't have any conflicts right now. So, we probably will. After that, I can tell you more about IHN and Nexus' involvement in it.


Chuck said...

The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) "work" Brian mentioned is excellent work. I've been aware of/involved with it in vary degress over the past 5 years. Luckily chapters exist in many areas of the country - usually organized by county.

The other "burden" I keep feeling personally is for the hispanic immigrants in our area. I've worked a bit with that community in the past, but don't currently. The legal/social issues are complex, but the core issues of survival and family health are immense. I have some contacts in that arena if you are interested.

carrie said...


Check out this blog entry. I think it will interest you. Also, at the top of the page, look to the left. Will Samson (the blogger) has written a book due out in August titled Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Whereever You Live.

Just FYI!