By Chris Neville
I think my experience in Servant Year thus far can be boiled down to these two realizations:
Take this, for example: I remember, during orientations at various retail jobs, my new employers telling me that I was going to gain customer service skills that would be valuable in my later career. I nodded politely, thinking to myself, But actually no, because I am not planning on making retail a career. Heh. Guess what?Those grueling shifts at Arby’s and Bath and Body Works really did hone my customer service skills, and I really am using them. Thanks to those experiences, I can throw myself into a Saturday morning grocery distribution at St. Peter’s and manage to be kind and present to every client and volunteer, no matter how crazy the last one I met was. If I can exude positive energy toward a woman ready to take me to court over an expired coupon, I can be positive toward a grumpypants who needs some food. My service sector supervisors were right, after all. Wow. Thanks, guys.
As a student, when I would have to work with or talk to people who got on my nerves for one reason or another, I would do my best to appreciate their good qualities. Always in the back of my mind, however, was a thought akin to: This person needs to learn ____, or she will not make it in the real world. You just can’t act like that! I think I assumed that all “successful” adults possess a fully formed array of social skills. That, it turns out, is not true. Lacking social skills does not mean you lack marketable skills. As a result, difficult people do not disappear from your life after college. Darn.
My senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges, a few people recommended that I take a gap year. The thought terrified me. A year of aimlessness? How about “no”? My life needed to follow a defined course of action. So I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I admitted that was a problem, but delaying college and taking a mysterious unstructured year in which to “find myself” would have been a much bigger problem. You see where this is going.
Servant Year is very much like a gap year (for some people, it is one). I am not working toward a structured, multi-year goal. I am exploring career options, going to discernment meetings, and trying new things. Wonderfully, I have become ok with this. Even through the end of my last year at college, I was working fervently to nail down exactly what my vocation is and to make it happen.
Through the readings we have had for spiritual formation meetings, I have come to accept that my vocation is not one thing that I have to find before I can fully live my life. Rather, I have come to respect that I will find my vocation by listening to my inner leadings. I can appreciate God at work in my life now instead of trying to envision what a God-filled life would look like. I am finally at a place where I am comfortable spending years exploring different careers and lifestyles. Alleluiah.
Chris Serves as Program Manager for St. Peter's Food Cupboard.