Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's the Point?

       When I first started telling people I was doing a year of volunteer service with BVS as a workcamp coordinator for the Church of the Brethren I got the following questions:

“What’s BVS?”

“What’s the Church of the Brethren?”

“What are workcamps?”

“Where will you live? Why would you want to live in Illinois?”

“Do you get paid? How much? So you’ll be poor?”

“What are you going to do afterwards?”

“What’s the point?”

       Now multiply those questions by about 20 and by the time I was getting ready to leave home I was a master at answering most of those questions. But the first time someone asked, “What’s the point?” really stuck with me. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first I should explain the context: the person I was talking to was hardcore into academia and was getting ready to start grad school at a prestigious school and in 3-5 years will be making oodles of cash that they probably won’t know what to do with. We had just finished talking about their future when we got onto mine, which is definitely not a 10 year plan. It’s more of a 1 year plan since I still have no clue what I’ll be doing once I’m done in August/September 2012. But when I explained I was moving out to Illinois to do a year of volunteer service they asked: “oh, is it to help with grad school applications?” I replied ‘no’. “So it’s to put on your resume at least?” I again replied, ‘no’; and they quickly added, “What’s the point?”

       I panicked a little because I wasn’t expecting someone to ask me that. Then I became a little furious and questions starting streaming through my head as I sat staring at their face: ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of dedicating a year of my life to helping those in need? What’s the point of helping youth find a way to serve others in communities across the country and abroad? What’s the point in trying to make a difference in a world run by media and political craziness?

       To say I was frustrated is an understatement. I did a little smile and so badly wanted to say, “Well what’s the point of having your doctorate in a field that won’t help anyone or anything except your bank account?” but I held back. I quickly changed the subject, not wanting to offend the person, but at the same time to preserve my memory of them as the friendly classmate who helped me with Statistics.

       Since then I’ve been asking myself, “What’s the point?” I’ve decided that there’s no one right answer: I’m doing this because I can. I have been fortunate and blessed in life and grew up in a comfortable town, have a good family, have good friends, went to a good college, and have had many opportunities to pursue a variety of different passions. Now it’s time to give back. Being a Sociology major I learned a lot about other countries compared to our own and the statistics of HIV/AIDS, poverty, discrimination, wealth gaps, and many other staggering numbers that they don’t tell you about in the news. In fact, my last semester of college I took a class in which it was all statistics about different countries and cultural reasons that contribute to their fortunes or misfortunes: Poverty, fertility, mortality, aging populations, etc. After every class I would leave either saddened or sickened by the numbers my professor would tell us. Sometimes I would even doubt them and go straight to a computer lab to look myself. And sure enough it was all true.

       So what’s the point? The point is that there are those of us who believe that showing your faith is about doing: doing a year of volunteer service, doing a 5k run to raise money for a charity, or doing a food drive to help a local food bank. Taking the risks and having the courage to step out of our comfort zones and face the real world problems of today to see how others live.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach