May 29th, 2020 marked my last day at work. I had been planning for about 2 years to take a sabbatical and my idea was to execute it by summer 2020. I wanted to quit my job to experiment with a desire that had been growing in me over the last few years, the desire to serve others.
During the past few months, I have experienced some of the most extraordinary feelings one could hope for: deep happiness, excitement, gratitude, desire to explore the unknown and to live life as fully as I can, relief, and so many more. When I started to contemplate the option of taking a sabbatical, I didn't have a very good idea of what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted to explore an area that I gravitated towards and that seemed to ignite my soul every time I got involved with. Experimenting means to explore something we don't know much about in order to acquire some knowledge and draw a conclusion based on the findings, so that's what I decided to do: experiment with it and see what conclusions I would come to.
Given that the area I was interested in was related to service/help, I decided to do a quick google search to find some volunteering activities that might be held in the area where I live. Unfortunately though, when I started my research, most of the volunteering activities had been put on hold because of COVID-19 and the only events still running were food distribution in outdoor set-up, or food truck distribution in senior living apartments. I wasn't sure if I liked it, but I decided to give it a shot and see how that would unfold.
It didn't take me too long to realize it wasn't something I wished to do for a life time, but God has infinite ways of guiding us and so, one day, while helping in a food distribution event, I was asked if I could help one of the coordinators to load empty cartons in his pick up truck and drive with him to the closest trash containers to get rid of them. I agreed and, after loading the truck to its maximum capacity, we jumped on and drove to the closest dumpster. The coordinator's name was Byron ("Like the famous Lord Byron" he said. His mom was an avid reader of his poetries and decided to call her first born after him).
Byron asked me how I learned about their organization and why I decided to drive so far to join the food distribution event. I explained that I wanted to do something to help people and told him I couldn't find any volunteering events that involved being in contact with people (which was my initial desire), so I decided to join whatever activity was available at the time. He listened carefully to my story and asked me many questions about my aspirations and passions. Before I took off to drive back home, he gave the name of a website that he felt could give me more chances to find what I liked. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for his words of encouragement and for the guidance on this new path of my life and, as soon as I got home, I visited the website. In the matter of a few minutes I found a request for a position as Child Assist at a non-profit organization, which focuses on the support of Sexually Abused or Neglected Children.
It took me about 3 weeks to become a volunteer at this organization due to the background checks they had to perform, but, once the screening process was completed, I became a part of the team and I couldn't wait to get my hands dirty.
The Child Assist position has been a true gift and has taught me so much in such a short amount of time. First of all, it helped me confront some fears I had about sexual abuse. Many times, learning about few, secondary details of the victims's abuse made me feel immensely overwhelmed and forced me to take a few minutes for myself to have a good cry before being able to interact with the victims. My role was to help them release any potential anxiety and help them have a good experience during their visit. I certainly couldn't accomplish that while being in a state of emotional confusion or emotional "constipation", but I quickly learned to cope with my own inner world and every single interaction has been pure enjoyment since then.
The second gift has been the one of humility.
Whenever I thought of helping others, I always imagined myself to be on the front line talking to victims, being a good listener but mostly being a counselor, telling them what to do (ugh!!), teaching them the tools for recovery and helping them get educated about the abuse.
As a Child Assist, I was specifically trained not to do any of these things, since all information related to how to cope with the abuse had to be given at a different point in time in the process and, mist importantly, they had to be provided exclusively by professional figures (such as the Crisis Counsellor or the Clinical Therapist). Any external message provided to the victim or the parent could jeopardize the outcome of their journey, or throw the victim in a state of confusion. On top of that, for confidentiality reasons I was not allow to speak to the victims about details of the abuse, neither I could have adult conversations with their parents about the events or their feelings related to the event. Any disclosure from their side would make me a witness and that would automatically make me an active part of the court process. So..not a good idea.
In spite of all that, it was hard for me to put a barrier with the victim and push back whenever the child or the parent would start disclosing anything about their feelings. I felt it was rude to stop them, especially when I had the feeling that they needed to ventilate and let out some steam. Luckily I wasn't exposed to many situations like that but when I was first asked not to have sensitive communications with our clients I felt confronted and disappointed. I desperately wanted to help and by being asked to be a "facilitator" I felt my position was stripped of all meaning. I was forced to take a step back and reflect on what were my REAL motivations behind wanting to help others.
After praying God about this issue, I realized that my desire wasn't as pure as I thought and I realized I had an addiction in place that would kick in and lead my behavior during my meetings with parents or children. The addiction was really about feeling useful, important, special, feeling as if I was worth something because I was helping someone, rather than just be at service of others for the sake of it. I had to let go of my ego and my selfishness, allow myself to feel "un-useful", "un-important" and "un-special" to really become a humble server and truly be at service of others. Had I been more arrogant about the feedback received from the team, I would have quit the Child Assist position right away thinking I wasn't being valued enough, instead of seeing the immense value that was hidden behind those remarks.
I'm sure I have only scratched the surface when it comes to humility, but I cannot stop being grateful for such an important lesson.
I realized that arrogance is just as blinding as a pair of blinders on a horse. It makes us believe that by taking a quick glance at one piece of the puzzle, we are capable of explaining with accuracy to the world what the puzzle represents and, by doing that, we don't only misrepresent the reality but we also miss out on what we could have seen and learned if we had the patience and humility to recognize that the piece was only such.
I still have a few weeks left before my sabbatical will come to an end and I still don't have a clear understanding of where I will end up being. Will I go back to engineering or keep moving forward with social work? Will I go back to the safety of an office job or dive deep into the world of uncertainty and burning desires?
At this point I still don't know if taking the leap will make me soar and fly higher, or plummet and fall hard, but I don't care. The discovery of one self is truly the most exciting and rewarding journey one could embark on. Huge waves might shake your boat, violent thunderstorms constrain you into a lightning crouch position and make you scream for dear life, the increasing distance from a safe harbor might tempt you to drop the sponge and head back to what made you feel safe, but isn't this trouble all worth it when you realize that your life was nothing but a Truman's show and your journey towards the unknown only the short, painful delivery of your own rebirth?
I dare you ask yourself that question, my brethren! I dare you. :)
For more info on Desire I recommend watching the following video: