Paging Dr. Holland

SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2012

This past Friday I accompanied my younger brother to Purdue University for a visit day, but was afforded some insight of my own. During one of the sessions designed for the families of prospective students, we discussed Dr. Holland’s six codes, which are often used to match personality types and vocations. The six types are described as being Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.

After a brief survey, I found myself identifying mostly with the Social and Artistic areas. Social people are typically cooperative, helpful, friendly and outgoing. Artistic people are creative, original, independent and inventive. It was mentioned that all areas need Artistic people and their creativity and ingenuity…. It would then be nice to think of myself as a Social person with the ability to think outside the box.

This got me thinking about my current experience with my internship at Benedict Inn, as well as my prospective career path. Am I able to fully express and utilize my personality traits at Benedict Inn? Certainly, it is a social environment. All staff members, myself included, try to make themselves available and helpful to guests at all times. Indeed, amongst the staff we work in a social environment; no one could work in the office without cooperating with one another.

For example, once a program is planned, the facilities manager must be contacted to procure a date, time and location. Once this is settled, our marketing coordinator then creates a pamphlet to advertise it, which needs to be proofed by multiple people before being sent to print. Our secretary is then in charge of organizing and printing the address labels, which I often attach to the pamphlets before they are mailed out. Finally, the day of each program requires the cooperation and interaction of all staff members at Benedict Inn, from the program director and the administrator, to the housekeeper and the cook.

The entire basis of most not-for-profit organizations and businesses is to provide services for others. Such a Social career allows people to work with one another to teach, serve and support others through all different types of interaction. From my experiences as a volunteer, and as an intern with Benedict Inn, I believe that I am on the right path to the vocation that will best match me and my personality and values; and, thanks to my visit to Purdue, I have been able to reflect on this in a new way.

To Honor a Friend & Coworker

THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2012

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”- Rumi

Sr. Joan Marie was a Sister of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace and served as the Program Director at Benedict Inn. I first met her when I visited Benedict Inn in November of 2011. I was invited to have a short interview and eat lunch with the staff before officially becoming an intern. I’ll never forget the spirit with which Joan Marie greeted me. The first thing she asked me was if I were Slovak…and I hated to disappoint her because she was so enthused. Over time I would understand that this enthusiasm was simply a part of her personality; something that made her a great program director.

She not only had a passion for connecting with others (her network of friends has grown to gargantuan proportions), but for truly serving others through Benedict Inn’s programs. She had a strong interest in working with youth, and designed leadership programs (among others) for them. However, she also aimed to provide educational, social and spiritual programs for all people. So much of her legacy will live on at Benedict Inn.

Although by the time I arrived as an intern she was dealing with her health issues, Sr. Joan Marie remained the friendly and warm woman I first met. She often visited us in the office, and I enjoyed sharing meals with her at the monastery. We had a number of things in common: ties to Chicago, a love for working with youth, and a habit of keeping a messy desk. She called me Little One, said I’d make a good Benedictine nun, and told me I was allowed to make at least one mistake every day. I value all my moments with her.

I wish I’d had more time to work with this wonderful woman, but I know she is at home in Heaven now, where angels belong. We (myself and her enormous body of friends) will miss her, will be praying for her and her loved ones, but do believe that she is smiling again.

“Come, Lord Jesus.” A bookmark of Sr. Joan Marie’s that I have to hold onto.

Reflection

SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2012

In an article on the busy pace of life, writer Margaret J. Wheatley commented, “time for reflection with colleagues is for me a life saver; it is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time.”

Wise words. We all know how fast-paced life is: how hours become days, and things we planned to do yesterday never got satisfactorily checked off our to-do list. In particular, it is difficult to sit down & concentrate on activities that seem more passive, such as contemplation and reflection. We’re so concerned with achieving goals with concrete results (read this book, write that report, attend some meeting, etc.) that we don’t always make room in our schedules for time to be quiet and to think about what all those accomplishments mean.

Fortunately for me, I was reminded of the importance of reflection by the director of Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation, a friend and someone I trust. We were discussing some of the perspective I have gained through my internship. I was trying to explain my eagerness to get out and WORK after school. She suggested that I think more on this, because it is something I can talk to employers about in an interview. I can explain to them that I see the issues and struggles of this world and that I want to work toward improving and solving them.

This made me pause and think about my work ethic…something I hadn’t really mused on before. I have always considered myself determined, but have not fully contemplated why. From what I have considered so far, I believe in my abilities to help others and want to do so in a hands-on manner that allows me to work with and for those who need me.

Would I have thought to articulate something like this without reflection with a colleague? Probably not. This is why it’s so important to set aside time to reflect on experiences, both alone and with others. Think about it, journal about it, blog about it, pray about it…whatever works, whatever gets you thinking and finding meaning in what you do.

Meeting St. Benedict at Starbucks

SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2012

One of my little luxuries this summer has been attending Mass on Saturday nights so that I can wake up early on Sunday morning and go for a nice, long run (something that is also commonly a spiritual experience for me) and then treat myself to reading a good book at Starbucks. This morning was no exception, and I settled down (fittingly) at my neighborhood Starbucks with Michael Gates Gill’s reflection How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, which I picked up at Half-Priced Books yesterday on a whim.

The author recounts his fall from fortune as an advertising whiz, and his second chance as a barista at a Starbucks on the Upper-West Side of New York. As I drank three of my usual order (“tall coffee with sugar-free hazelnut!” – only one of them decaf…), I was intrigued by Mr. Gill’s description of his experience as an employee of Starbucks Coffee. From his very first day, he was taught how to treat “Guests” with care and respect, making conversation with them in order to create a welcoming atmosphere and providing for their needs. Gill also realizes, through his retail service job, that work is dignifying. Work is satisfying, not only in the fact that it gives us a sense of accomplishment, but in that knowledge that we have usually provided something for others. The author explains how he took so much pride in cleaning the store, even the bathroom, for his employer and guests!

The thought struck me almost immediately upon reading this memoir how Benedictine his experience has been! In his Rule, St. Benedict wrote, “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ,” and while his recommendation is generally intended for monastic communities, it is something that anyone in the Benedictine tradition strives for. When writing about how Starbucks treats its customers, Gill always uses the term “Guests,” reflecting the company’s attitude. And, a huge part of receiving these guests at the store involves doing the best work possible in order to meet their needs. Here, the labor so honored by Benedictines is coupled with their famous gift for hospitality to provide the best possible experience for those they encounter in this life.

Reflection has brought me to contemplate how my work experience in a Benedictine institution relates to other job positions in the world. Through my internship I have learned even more about what it means to live my Benedictine tradition, and what I have gained from this experience can be applied in my future positions. Who knew that when I casually chatted with guests at the Inn that I was involving myself in a real business practice? It just seems natural that I would let people (guests, customers or whomever they may be) know that I take an interest in their concerns and am willing to meet their needs. Everyone has something unique about them, and understanding this on behalf of a company can go a long way in business relations. I hope this philosophy is something I can demonstrate in the future to employers who have a similar outlook on serving humanity.

A big thanks to Michael Gates Gill for writing his book, as it provided me a nice read on a lovely Sunday morning and an opportunity for reflection!

By the way, what drink do you think Benedict would order at Starbucks? (He’d certainly show more moderation than I do!)

Yours truly with my copy of How Starbucks Saved My Life. (Notice my OLG Academy sweatshirt!)