Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Why I Do Good: Starry Night

I'm exploring the roots of my desire/need/compulsion to "do good." I don't usually share personal stories here on Have Fun, Do Good, and I'm not sure where this is going, but I'm giving it a whirl. Here's the link to my first post, Why Do You Do Good? and my second post, Why I Do Good: The Center and Agape.

I was raised to serve.

In addition to being very involved with our church community, my parents' professional work was service-oriented. My mom had a variety of teaching and counseling positions while my dad worked mostly for nonprofits. Outside of his paid work, my dad organized CROP walks in our community, co-founded Martin House, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Witness for Peace, and visited elderly people at the local convalescent home who didn't receive much company.

Being a dutiful only child, when I went to college, I unconsciously followed a service-oriented path. I studied sociology, did a summer internship for the National Coalition for the Homeless, studied in Sweden for a semester (so that I could understand how their public policy worked), co-chaired Vassar's Hunger Action chapter, and wrote a couple pieces about social-changey things for the student newspapers.

Even though I was studying and doing things related to social justice, I ended up writing my senior thesis about the holistic health movement as a social movement, and my most transformative moment came from reading in the library one night about the Atman, or "world soul" in The Upanishads for a History of Religion class.

As I walked back to my dorm across the dark quad from the library, I remember the sky being incredibly full of sparkly stars, the grass feeling extra soft, and the people I passed seeming simultaneously close and far away. I felt a blissful, joy-filled rush of connection to all things and all people. I wasn't on drugs, but it felt like I was.

I've never had an experience like that again, but I think of it often, and wonder why I had it at that moment. I wish everyone could have that feeling at least once. If I could figure out a way to make that happen, I would do it in a flash.

Photo of stars at night by sukchander.

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