Last month, I was fortunate to be invited to speak to Marian Pontz’ International Relations class at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, PA. Some people might be confused by this. Why would the director of a Meals on Wheels program go to a high school to talk about international relations? I am glad to speak to this question as it relates to part of what I hoped to impart upon the inquisitive students in that second block class.
We are more than our titles, we are more than our present work, we are more than even our reputations. Before I arrived at Meals on Wheels of Lancaster two years ago I had travelled to Nicaragua twice on short trips with Witness for Peace to have a better understanding of a different culture and history from the perspective of people with a different context, geography, and national experience. I spent a semester of my college years traveling and learning through immersive experiences throughout the Near East including, Egypt, Jordan, West Bank, Israel, Greece and Italy. I have been to Africa almost a dozen times and visited six countries there. I love international politics. I love politics in general, but I really love international politics. I studied Justice, Peace and Conflict studies at Eastern Mennonite University. I studied theater there too. I hold a Master’s of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary.
Our positions always provide us with opportunities to work hard even when it isn’t the work for which we prepared. I am blessed with the opportunity to not only work hard but also to do good work that relates to my moral understanding of being in the world. I’m fortunate to know that the work I do helps to stabilize the food security for some, for others it ensures they continue to live where they would prefer to live, and for others it helps them to work on nutrition or weight or recover from surgery. I get to do good work that matters to real people in the real world. Not everyone is as blessed as I am in their opportunity. But I still love international issues and follow closely the happenings around the world and study the ways that certain policy decisions do or do not achieve their stated goal.
I hope that what these young individuals learned from me is that there are opportunities that are in front of us that allow us to do great things. That a lot of people settle for less than their greatest effort because they imagined they would be somewhere differently. But the reality is that almost nobody is exactly where they wanted to be and for those who are, it is often fleeting. Athletes and actors and many luxury careers rarely last a lifetime. Even work that we think might last a lifetime can be disrupted because of an economic downturn where a company goes under or a workplace injury that requires a life change. But there will be new opportunities.
These kids were incredibly gracious to me, they sent thank you notes that moved me to tears and expressed an appreciation for my contribution I cannot believe was warranted. But that’s one of the pleasures of my position. I get to go share what we do with the community. I get to talk about how kids will grow up and they will have opportunities to try things out. One student sent me a message that she always wanted to study Political Science in college and now she knows that she should pursue her passion. I offered them internships if they want us to look at how we can pair our institutional needs to their burgeoning talents. One of those students asked to take a picture with me at the end of my time with them. And he emailed it to me and said he hopes in the summer to come volunteer with us at Meals on Wheels of Lancaster. I look forward to reaching out to him at the end of the school year, but to be honest, even if it doesn’t happen I know it was all worth it just because I know at least one student in that class will consider the kind of work we do as worthy of his time and talent.