Last night Husband and Boy were both asleep and I’d just finished soaking in the tub when I got a text from Girl. It was late, about 10pm or so, and we texted back and forth for a good half hour, maybe longer.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:
Obviously, our actual conversation was much more involved than that. And while I might have been an asshole a couple of times, I mainly was NOT.
The story is that she went to an informational meeting about a service learning trip to India being offered by her college. It captured her interest immediately and she was so excited about it, she had to text me as soon as she got back to her dorm.
I told her I love her heart and her passion for people. I truly do. And then I reminded her that she told me she thought she wanted to stay in the US this summer, probably to work at the local church camp.
Yes, but that was before she found out about India and the college’s many years of experience taking students there to participate in this service learning program where “the mission is to respond to respond to issues of poverty, displacement, gender discrimination and social exclusion by initiating and promoting transformative and inclusive education, community based initiatives and campaigns in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and Social Movements.” The program is a secular, non-profit organization, committed to enabling women, children and other marginalized groups realize their rights.
I told her I love the idea of service learning. And I can see why she wants to do something like that. I can see how it fits her interests and goals.
And I was sitting in bed thinking YouDoKnowImGoingToBeAwakeAllFreakingNightNowRight? But I was also cheering her on. I felt crazy.
I might have been an asshole after that – briefly – because I was scared.
I asked her since when is she interested in India and if she’s aware that India is pretty much a hell hole in that it is not known to be a safe place for women. It’s actually very dangerous made worse by its corrupt police force and it is foolish of her to be willing to put herself at risk given the readily available information. So, NO. Stay home and work to improve this hell hole.
She very eloquently talked about not having a heart for any one specific place, but for the whole world. For all people. She wants to go everywhere. She said service learning trips are unique to college and she thinks this would be a one time chance to go in the safest manner possible with 12 fellow students and a professor.
She told me her school has been executing this trip for 15 years without incident, the group stays in civilized conditions on the closed campuses of the respective organizations. She heard an upperclassman talk about his experience on the trip and how it forever changed his view of the world. She wants that.
She told me that she will not live in fear. I don’t want her to either, I really don’t, even though I’m probably the one who has made it hardest for her. Truthfully, I’ve done a number on her, trying to protect her from the ugly, foul world we live in, too many safety talks, blahblahblah, even as I worked to encourage her to imagine all of life’s possibilities and to give her wings and freedom. I always wanted her to be a full participant in the wide, wide world, but in a safe or at least SAFER context. Is that wrong? Despite me, she has always been able to see and experience life’s beauty. The beauty has always spoken more loudly to her than the ugly or the fear. Thankfully, overall, she has ended up in pretty good shape, the best of me and her father, but mainly just her own self.
She talked about realizing the reason she loves English and she loves to read stories is not because she loves analyzing literature – even though it is one of her gifts – but because of the people, the characters, caring about them and their journeys. The reason she is considering teaching at some point is because she loves people and she wants to be part of their experiences of growth and discovery. She said people are her passion. Loving people is her gift. An introverted people lover.
I might have said something like “why can’t you go to Appalachia like a normal kid?” but I’m not sure. And seriously, is there anything wrong with me momentarily wishing she’d just get a summer job at Yogiberry for gas money and leave it at that?
I know this is about her own journey with God, too. She loves God. Sometimes it scares me how much she loves Him. And trusts Him. She told me she thinks she should go to India because God tells us to use our gifts and if we are being honest, her gifts don’t include construction work in Appalachia or anything like that. Her gifts are tied up in caring about people and writing and traveling and working to understand other cultures and build bridges. She spoke passionately about believing she’s EXACTLY the type of person these organizations want to learn what they have to teach. And believing she can share it going forward by putting it into action in ways that utilize her gifts. She is being driven by a growing sense of purpose and responsibility.
I told her she sounds like my Dad. She said, “you know I strive to be like him, Mom, right?”
She is like him already, maybe more than she knows.
Girl is wise beyond her years and she has an inner confidence that can be surprising for someone so young. And yet she’s reluctant to be out in front; she’s a gentle spirit, a quiet leader. I read somewhere that quiet power doesn’t make a lot of noise. It’s like light. It shines and makes things grow.
I told her again how very much I love her heart. I love her heart for people. I love that she wants to go everywhere and see and understand ALL THE THINGS. I love that she wants to grow and share her gifts.
AND I told her we can talk more with Daddy when she comes home next week for fall break. My inclination is to say she should get her first full year of college successfully under her belt and if she still feels this way next fall, she can apply for the trip then. They go every summer. It doesn’t have to be THIS summer. She seemed ok with that. Sort of. We’ll see.
She told me she is exploring what major to declare with guidance from her advisor because she went in undecided at the last minute. Right now she’s leaning toward majoring in something like Sociology or Political Science with a minor in Peace and Justice Studies. She is thinking about some sort of nonprofit work for awhile, maybe then grad school and/or teaching. We’ve come a long way from I want to study Literature to I don’t think I want to go to college to I think I want to take a gap year to I want to be a teacher to now. Who knows, but clearly she’s finding her way.
Truth is, she’s doing everything I hoped for her as she started her college career. She’s living her own life to the full, taking advantage of all of the resources and opportunity before her, figuring out who she is, what she wants to do. And more. I’m so happy for her, and proud.
Even if I still think, “Why India? Why YOU?”