My year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps is a particularly stark example of life as a murky and ambiguous plane of decision-making. I’m serving this year with MVC in Cincinnati, working in hospital chaplaincy. I’ve changed cities, jobs, type of work, and living situation to be here. Nearly all of this experience is unfamiliar: new colleagues, new friends, new places, new customs, new environments. And in that grayness and unfamiliarity, I often don’t know what to do, what to say, or what my priorities should be. In this foreignness, what should guide me? How do I know what to do?
In our lives more generally, we often don’t know the right thing to do – how we should act, what we should choose, what we should say, who we should spend our time with, or what our priorities should be. That is why we think, reflect, read, learn, and talk things over with the people we trust. Christianity has something to add to this ambiguous nature of moral decision-making. The Christian tradition offers a lens to see the world and an orientation to help guide our thinking. It allows us a chance to apply religious principles to our daily lives through specific, commonplace decisions. The central ideal in this tradition is that whatever leads to greater love is the true and right path.
A year of service gives plenty of opportunities to practice this ideal. For me, this may take lots of different forms. It may mean striving to bring all of myself into the present moment as I talk with a patient in her hospital room. It may mean learning to sit in a room alone, with no iPhone or to-do list, and simply be with myself in peace. It may mean being the person in my community to unload the dishwasher, even though I’m pretty positive I unloaded it the last two times. It may mean learning how to say my feelings were hurt without in turn hurting someone else.
At its best, Christian service allows each of us to more deeply ingrain these tenets of love, freedom, authenticity, and communion into ourselves so that we may more ably choose them. It may give us opportunities, examples, and a culture which fosters that way of being. The challenge then is to continuously bring that into our lives. At its best, Christian life allows us – over years, over decades – to try and track ourselves to that moral principle of love, so that we may more easily recognize what is good and choose it. Of course, often times we are not “on our game” and we fall well short of what we’d like to be. Still, we adjust and we adjust and we adjust and we hope that our struggle to abide to this track is the way.
Pat Boduch: Cincinnati, Ohio