At the end of the first semester of my senior year at college, during the month of December, 2001, I was visiting with Tom, my Jesuit Scholastic friend who, on occasion, dropped by Gonzaga University where I was attending college. We were at the corner diner on Sharp and Hamilton having milkshakes and catching up on the past year.
Tom introduced the subject of JVC into the conversation. I knew about the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) from former members speaking at Masses, had spent time with the Spokane Jesuit Volunteers, and had been urged by Tom to join JVC on previous visits. My answer was prepared. I had briefly thought about participating in JVC, but dismissed the idea after coming to the conclusion that I had already mastered the JVC pillars of simple living, community, spirituality, and social justice. I had just spent four years living with roommates, I had a comfortable and devout relationship with God, and I had an understanding of the difference between charity and justice.
I was a civil engineering major who wanted to go directly to graduate school because taking a year-long break would be too risky. “Tom,” I said, “It took me four years to train my brain to think like an engineer. If I take a year off from school, I don’t know if I’ll be able to return.” Tom’s reply was not what I expected. He said, “Just make sure fear isn’t the real reason you are not doing JVC.”
I wanted to participate in Jesuit Volunteer Corps, but thought I was somehow above its goals. I was also unsure if I could contribute energy to a new community and creativity to a new job. But despite my excuses, the bottom line was that participating in JVC would not be comfortable . In response, I patted myself on the back for being satisfied with my friends, my God, and my social responsibility. I was entrenched in my banal existence and had no ambition to challenge what was comfortable.
Yet Tom’s words continued to float through my thoughts. One day in February, I literally woke up and realized that time was not as urgent as I thought, and after graduation from college, I was free to do whatever I wanted to do.
It is true. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a chance for people to give a year of their life for service, even though I had a more selfish motive for participating in JVC. I needed to do JVC in order to learn about people, to learn to be patient, to re-learn to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, and to have the experience of living in a culturally diverse, big city.
Most importantly, I am now doing something that I really, truly, and passionately wanted to do, not something that I thought I should do—something I haven’t done very often in the previous four years.