Place as a concept is elusive to me. I used to believe that we all have an obligation to be mesmerized by places, that just by nature of existing a place demands a certain kind of response from its inhabitants. I have come to believe, however, that this obligatory mesmerization is unfounded. To be mesmerized by a beautiful place committed to beautiful things is one thing but to be mesmerized by others might require turning a blind eye to cruelty. Mesmerization requires nothing of the will- the person is a non-agent, subject to whims. It has been my own sense of naïve willingness to fall in love with new places that led me to believe that a sense of fascination was enough. Enough to fulfill some kind of sociological end.
But, its not.
Place requires cultivation, ie work. And, good work requires the ability to pay attention- real attention- to the nature of things in front of you. Even the places that are stumbled into require this kind of attention. This is what Servant Year invites you into: a place, found or stumbled into, that demands a good deal of attention in order to cultivate it.
When I started my time with Servant Year, I was in a deep state of disillusionment. The beautiful world I had been promised through my studies at college was nothing like the corporate world I entered into. The reality I inhabited slowly pecked away at my mind’s boundaries until a sturdy sense of disenchantment permeated my theological and vocational imagination.
At this time, I was deeply committed to Saint Mark’s Church in Center City, Philadelphia. It was really the only place that my heart felt at home in those days. I remember telling someone on the phone that every time I walked outside the doors it felt wrong somehow. Wrong because I wanted to stay. Wrong, because it was there that I knew myself as a person placed.
When I learned that a Servant Year placement could be an option for me there, I was hit by a feeling I had felt before…that I had no choice but to do it. You probably know the feeling I am talking about, the one where your stomach drops and a surge of activity occurs in your brain- the feeling of waking up to your own desires, or perhaps remembering for the first time in a long time that you even have desires.
So, I guess the most accurate way to describe the beginning of my journey with Servant Year is to say that I entered with a deep longing for something other, an intense need for community, and a desire to know myself as someone deeply placed.
Current Placement: St. James School