On August 26, 1943 — the day after their wedding.
My parents John and Clara Schmidt were at the Newton, Kansas train depot, on their way to South America.
They were ‘called’ to serve as doctor and nurse for a new settlement of Russian Mennonites in the Chaco desert of west Paraguay.
A place considered nearly uninhabitable.
Little did John and Clara know, on that day, of the seemingly insurmountable challenges their ‘calling’ would bring forth in the decades ahead.
Ed and I are currently writing a book about their remarkable adventures together, which all began at that midwestern train depot.
What does it mean to be called?
To be ‘called’ can mean very different things, depending on one’s philosophical and/or spiritual point of view.
It can be my experience of being guided to serve others.
It can be associated with finding my passion.
It can be the application of my unique skills as a basis for choosing a career, or
It can be experienced as an authentic expression of who I am.
For my parents on their way to a life of service in Paraguay, their calling came from all four of those sources.
It was a call from God, guiding them to serve those in need; it aroused their passion for adventure; it provided an opportunity for a career using their medical skills as a physician and nurse, and it provided an authentic expression for the Christian missionaries they understood themselves to be.
How many of us ever find a calling this meaningful?
Unfortunately, according to a recent Gallup poll, over 80% of college-educated Americans aspire to have meaningful work, but less than 50% actually attain it.
I was one of the fortunate ones.
I spent most of a thirty-year career as a business professor, consultant, and researcher.
It began as a profession that was satisfying beyond any expectations I had as a kid about where my life would take me.
And even toward the end, it continued to be a great source of livelihood and service to others.
But by the time I retired five years ago, I was sometimes passionate about it and I thought it represented pretty much who I thought I was.
I am indeed fortunate to have had such a satisfying career
But notice the modifiers sometimes and pretty much that crept in overtime.
And I was so busy continuing to apply my skills as a way of contributing services to students, colleagues, and clients, that I didn’t even notice when the other two sources of meaning in my work began to fade into the background.
Over time, I drifted away.
Like ‘mission drift’ in organizations — when the mission statement hanging on the wall no longer resembles the day-to-day decisions.
My core motives of passion and a deep sense of being who I was meant to be had begun to drift away.
The drift occurred gradually enough that I didn’t even notice at first.
But one day, a little over five years ago, I woke up to the fact that I no longer really believed my old story of “I’m passionate about my work.”
My calling had become a job that still allowed me to utilize my skills to provide needed services, but it was losing much of its meaning and purpose.
Today, I’m blessed to once again feel ‘called’ to do what I’m doing
I continue to use similar skills to provide services to my readers and podcast listeners.
And I have rediscovered my passion by finding my true self a little bit at a time and sharing that journey with others.
My tormented childhood, broken marriages, successful career, two beautiful children, eventually finding my soulmate, and countless other milestones along my journey are all shaping my current calling.
What I do is once again vitally connected to who I am and to who I am becoming.
For me, rediscovering my calling, my sweet spot, has depended on being true to who I am as that continues to evolve.
The other facets of meaningful work have followed and I trust they will continue to follow.
The poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wrote in Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom:
“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities.”
John and Clara Schmidt didn’t know what challenges and opportunities lay ahead of them on that fateful day in 1943.
But they honored the possibilities that were awakening deep within them, and their calling never became just a job.
If you enjoyed this and would like to see more, please visit me at marlenafiol.com.