The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.Frederick Buechner
This morning at Quaker Meeting for Worship, I’ve been reflecting about “my calling,” which has been a refrain that has run through my entire life.
One way of understanding a “calling” is something that you are meant to do in this world. More than a profession, or a talent, or an opportunity, a “calling” is something unique to you. A calling brings together:
- Your gifts: your particular skills and talents
- Your passions: what you actually enjoy doing, what fulfills you
- The world’s needs: a problem or challenge that needs addressing urgently
Too often people get caught up in one of these, to the detriment of the others. It would be nice to just do the things that make you happy. Or to throw yourself at whatever huge problem is right in front of you. Or just do the thing you happen to be particularly good at, whether or not it makes you happy. But it’s the secret sauce of all three that makes a truly fulfilled life, in my opinion.
There is of course a fourth major area: what other people are willing to pay you to do. I have been fortunate to be able to thread this very tiny needle for most of my life – from working at refugee asylum project in El Paso, to coordinating a global human rights campaign in New York, to my current job supporting media literacy education. All work that I was compensated for financially… to varying degrees up and down the poverty line.
Very few people have that luxury, of course. My father as a young person didn’t ever see himself as being a doctor. But for lots of reasons out of his control (family pressure, economic opportunities, immigration laws), that is what he ended up doing. Thankfully, he was and is very good at it, and enjoys his work. And that has made all the difference for our entire family, for which I am very grateful.
That is most people’s path. They took the best opportunities that were available to them. The world certainly needs dedicated and skilled health care workers, teachers, lawyers, mechanics, farmers, and coders.
But I believe that most everyone can find that place where their skills and and passions and the world’s needs meet, even if it’s just in small ways. My friend Hanah is a developer for a big company who also teaches coding skills to BIPOC kids in the Bay Area. My buddy Morgan uses her investment savvy to help others use their wealth to support social justice causes. My friend Heather uses her work at a global tech company to support girl’s education projects in the developing world.
We all have some power to move the needle, even the tiniest bit, on a vital cause or concern. My challenge is finding out the best ways to channel my own gifts, passions, privilege, and energy to make the change that I want to see in the world. That is an ever moving target, because all three of those big circles doesn’t stay the same over time.
Today, I would say the two areas where my passions, gifts and world’s needs meet are:
- Supporting the growth and direction of Lindy Hop (and other Black vernacular dances) as a positive cultural force in the world
- Fostering the next generation of engaged digital citizens through media literacy
There’s a lot more to both of those causes. But those are the rough areas of work that I feel called to. At least for today.
And time is that critical last factor. We only have a finite amount of time on this plane. What do I want to look back on and see how I spent these precious years, days, and hours? What do I want that obit to say?