As human beings, our job is to care for the world and for each other. Most of us aren’t very good at it. None of us do it perfectly. Which is why we need practices like service, discernment and pilgrimage to help us live into our collective vocation.
A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life is based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
There are as many ways to “serve” as there are people and causes to be served, but you can start with a simple experiment:
- Prepare a set of “Curb Kits” — The next time you see a person holding an “Anything Helps” sign at a highway intersection, remember they didn’t give up their humanity the moment they decided to “fly a sign.” They’re made in the image of God, just like you and me. Instead of ignoring or chastising them, at least wave or smile at them or otherwise acknowledge their existence. Then stock your car, bike bag or backpack with useful items like socks, water bottles and a “help card.” Putting together “curb kits” is a great project for individual commuters, families, birthday parties, clubs and youth groups. Each kit costs about $5, so it’s worth preparing multiple kits at the same time.
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.Frederick Buechner on true “vocation,” from Wishful Thinking
The expression of our human vocation is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Different people (and groups and communities) have different gifts, personalities, interests and aptitudes, so it’s important for all of us to identify the most appropriate and synergistic ways to express our care for the world and for one another.
- “GO EPIC” — This in-depth, three-step process helps individuals, families, small groups and faith communities customize their vocational fit.
- Seek soul care — Sometimes a sympathetic guide can help us find our way toward a more undivided and meaningful approach to our life journey. Colorado residents can find reputable “soul companions” aka “spiritual directors” here and here.
- Read widely — Here is a list of my “must reads” including classics, history, social change, personal growth, fiction and more. All (or almost all) of the titles on the list are available in print and on audio.
All margins are dangerous. If they are pulled this way and that, the shape of fundamental experience is altered. Any structure of ideas is vulnerable at its margins.Mary Douglas, “Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo”
We tend to trumpet our light while ignoring or minimizing our shadow, individually and collectively, which inevitably leads to cycles of injustice. I’ve found “on-the-ground pilgrimages” to places of special significance, suffering or tragedy help recalibrate our perception of the past and inform our collective present and future. Consider joining me at:
- Sand Creek — I facilitate an annual Memorial Day Weekend experience at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Eastern Colorado.
- Fort Chambers — From 2020-2021, I co-facilitated a September “remembrance” at the site of Fort Chambers in Boulder, Colo., and on Oct. 9, 2022, I served on a faith-leader panel for “Re-Membering: From Fort Chambers to Sand Creek, the Future is Now.”
- Selected sites in Broomfield — I co-facilitate “suburban poverty” tours in my hometown of Broomfield, Colo. By request.