The Pearl, vol. 87: Your desire to serve is not naive

Dear Oysters, 

For a long time, I longed to be of service. My heart felt called to help people who were hurting, to be present in moments of crisis, to serve our broken world in a different way than playing or teaching the violin had thus far allowed me to do. I felt sure that I had gifts that were not being used, and this feeling was quite painful to me. Sometimes it would bring me to tears, the despair of it, because I couldn't see my way through the mess of my life. I couldn't yet envision the long strand of changes that would be required in order to truly change my life and bring this mysterious seed of vocation to fruition. And I certainly hadn't mustered up the courage to examine all the things that would have to be let go. 

Also: I felt there was something deeply suspicious about my desire to be "of service." Rather than understand that my call to service was noble or good, I crapped on it. (Mentally!) I doubted that I could be useful to people. I was skeptical, and I think I was also scared. What a goody-two-shoes, self-aggrandizing wish! Help people? Pssh!!  

Am I the only person who has felt this way? Oysters, have you ever doubted your own desire to Do Good? Looking back, it seems a little crazy, and more than a little sad. But it's the truth: I silently mocked myself for thinking that I could help, for thinking that I could actually make a difference in human lives. And I'm writing this just in case that's ever happened for anyone else. The cynicism of our world can penetrate our hearts, squelching our most noble and humanistic impulses. 

So Oysters, I'm writing to you from the messy midst of social work education with a little message. As always, it's a message for my Past Self that I'm hoping might land with some Present Selves out there. 

IF YOU FEEL CALLED TO SERVE, HEED THAT CALL BECAUSE HOT-DAMN, THE WORLD COULD REALLY USE YOU. Whatever touches your heart, the problem is truly waiting for you. People experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental illness. Foster youth, their unborn babies, their foster parents. The very young, the very old, the hospitalized. You name it, Oysters. 

It doesn't have to involve grad school or career change, although it might. It could start small at first ... volunteering one afternoon a week, or taking one class. Just dipping a toe into the water.

These days, I've got the opportunity to serve, in ways I've often longed to. And yes it's very tiring and I have to protect my energy and I have to take care of myself. But even on the dog-days, I find myself inwardly celebrating. And just in case this is a song that you've heard too, somewhere in the distance, I wanted to give you a bit of encouragement to dance in its direction. 

Stay salty and much love,
Ellen

 

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