Back when I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved all kinds of animals and I figured working with them would be great. I gathered as wide a collection of pets as my family would tolerate, and read constantly about animals. Dreaming of a profession working with animals came to an abrupt end for me in 9th grade biology class. Dissecting fetal pigs and studying anatomy was tolerable, but nothing like the contact I wanted with pets and other animals.
For a short time in my twenties, I tried to be a pre-school teacher. I did a lot of babysitting in my teenage years, and I really enjoyed taking care of children. Teaching pre-schoolers seemed like a natural step, until I spent two weeks in a classroom with 18 two-year-olds. The kids were great. They were full of life and creativity, and interesting to be with – but there were so many of them. I realized how much I valued a smaller context, and wanted more one-on-one contact with each child.
I could say that after those (and other) false starts, I eventually found my true passion working with university students and became a campus minister, but that isn’t the way I actually see it. Even as I’ve built a career around serving with young adults in higher education, I’ve never moved on from my love of animals or my fondness for children. It isn’t my job to care for animals or to reach out to kids, but those are still an important part of my life.
Working with college students is amazing. It is a challenge and a joy to journey with students in those first adult years, as they are studying for a profession, figuring out how to be adults in their own right, and learning just how their connection to God and faith shapes the choices they make daily (and for the rest of their lives). I am honored to walk with students through the challenges of college life, gather them into a community of faith, and help them see God there, too.
While I work on campus, I also share my life with my aging Siberian husky, a husband, two daughters, five well-stocked bird feeders, and a neighborhood full of neighbors and their children. Taking care of our dog as she gets older, sharing a life with my husband, listening to my children’s struggles, filling the bird feeders and welcoming the kids in the neighborhood are all part of how I serve God and my neighbor in this world.
Years ago, I certainly imagined I would live out my passions for animals and for children differently than I actually do. But the sense I have that I can (and must) do something with those passions didn’t disappear when I decided not to be a vet or a teacher. They have found other ways to be part of my life, and I am certain God makes use of them. The many roles we play in life make room for us to engage in a variety of commitments for the sake of the world.
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