This One Wild and Precious Life

So confession: I feel sad today.  I hate being down in the dumps because I feel like it either makes people think less of me, or destroys their picture of me as the always-happy-Sarah, or both.  But if I’m being honest, I’m being honest.  Today, I feel sad.

I think it’s dawning on me that I’m not going to be here in Belize for all that much longer.  While that doesn’t particularly disappoint me (because home and reasonable climes are calling my name), I do feel a gnawing lack of completion.  I have been here for just under five weeks now, and I know that I haven’t done enough to make life better for people here.  I think that as far as generally spreading happiness goes, I’ve done a pretty nice job, but when it comes to actually going out and becoming a part of the communities here, I haven’t had the opportunity to be as involved as I’d like.  Though it’s impossible to fairly compare my time in Belize to my time in Peru, I do feel that I had more of an opportunity to feel like a community member in the villages outside of Cusco than I’ve had in the villages outside PG.  I guess that’s due in part to the fact that one of the most important contributions that I can make to the PG office is in the area of organization and programming.  It just gets me down sometimes to be in front of a computer all day when I’d love to be out planting trees or working with kids at a school.  I must remind myself to “bloom where I am planted.”

Another contributor to my somewhat sad state: general life pondering.  Service is such an interesting thing.  Doing something to help others brings such a sense of purpose and satisfaction when you reflect on one particular instance of helping another.  But when you think about all that remains to be done, and how much more you could be doing, it becomes daunting and, honestly, rather depressing.  Though not comfortable, I think that that feeling of dissatisfaction is crucial.  If we leave some small volunteer effort with a sense of self-righteousness, we risk convincing ourselves that we’ve “done our piece.”   But have we ever really “done our piece”?  And who decides?  I’m pretty sure that anyone who wants to promote a more loving world is called to live a life of service, in some way or another.  And herein lies my current dilemma: what does my “life of service” look like?  So far, I know a few things for sure:

1) it’s a LIFE of service, not a day, nor a week, nor a year–a life.  This both excites me and scares the crap out of me.  Why does it scare the crap out of me?  Because…

2) It’s not always going to be easy.  Maybe it’s not meant to be.  Regardless…

3) It needs to start now.  Yes, I work for an international volunteerism company.  It doesn’t get more directly relevant to service than that.  But am I doing the most that I can, every single day, to work for the foundational cause of helping others?  Some days yes, but some days no.

All this brings me right back to that Catherine of Sienna quote from a few blog entries back…”If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” 

Sad though it may make me, I will strive to be thankful for the dissatisfaction that God places on my heart, and for the reminder that service isn’t about one day or one year, but about one life. 

As Mary Oliver so gracefully and aptly puts it, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

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3 thoughts on “This One Wild and Precious Life

  1. i’ve struggled with similar thoughts here in cayo, but i think there are other factors to consider. we have to remember that we are temporary support staff. our place isn’t among the community members on the front lines. while that can be the most rewarding place for us personally, as a whole we might actually be doing more harm than good making community connections…especially when we have no plans on returning to build on that relationship. one of the issues with volunteerism is the unsustainable nature of volunteers coming and going and never having consistent individuals to gain the trust and confidence of our community partners. i think this is compounded in belize where communities are tightly knit and unsure of outsiders until they have been around awhile and “proved” themselves.
    i wanted to be in the villages, among the people, but have had to be realistic about the impact i’m going to have here….i think we are similar in that our influence will be felt most with the actual volunteers and full time staff members. you had an impact on me in the one week i spent with you, i can only imagine what a great role model and inspiration you’ve been to the countless volunteers in pg. this is a pivotal point in many volunteers lives. one that opens perspectives and opportunities in creating change down the road…you will forever be a part of that shift.
    i appreciate your honesty and hope you start feeling better…if not i’ll be in pg in three short days and i know a couple tipsy swings that have our name on them 🙂 besos~

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