Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Finding Your Calling’ Category

The Dinner Party

In creativity, Finding Your Calling, spirituality on May 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Name three people, alive or dead, that you’d like to have dinner with and why. This classic ice breaker is as revealing as it is delicious to contemplate. Here are my selections.

Studs Terkel wrote my all-time favorite book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. This book influenced me more than all the sociology of work classes I took in college. One quotation, Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people” set me on a lifelong quest to find my calling (still searching) and probably made me reject the idea of having only one job. Originally published in 1974, the bestselling book examined people from all walks of life who were, according to the author, working “for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A Chicago broadcaster, Terkel listened to America and allowed us to listen, too. Five decades of interviews with ordinary and remarkable people will soon be available here. Meanwhile, you can listen to a few hundred of them here. You might want to choose his interview with my next dinner companion, Maya Angelou.

That Voice and the intellect and compassion behind it would be plenty to include her in my fantasy dinner party, but there’s so much more.

Bill Gallo of Westword had this to say about her:

The talents of Maya Angelou – she is or has been a teacher, memoirist, prize-winning poet, actress, civil-rights activist, editor, playwright, composer, dancer, producer, theater and TV director, and advisor to three presidents – range so far and deep that no feat she accomplishes could come as a surprise.”

Her dizzying list of achievements guarantees that she would be a fascinating conversationalist. I’d be happy just to sit back and let that voice wash over me. She’s all over the internet, but I recommend that you watch her read her poem, “Still I Rise.” 

My final companion would be my dear friend Reverend Sheila Johnson. Some people you just resonate with. You know the moment you meet that you’re going to be friends. It was that way with Sheila when we briefly worked together for a training company more than twenty years ago. Like the other two, she is versatile, gregarious, and real. In addition to her work as a hospital chaplain, she writes, paints, teaches and sews.

She makes me feel grounded and would keep me from going all fan girl with the other two, either babbling or struck dumb.

Plus, if I had dinner with Maya Angelou and didn’t invite her, Sheila would kill me.

You Are What You Read

In Books, Finding Your Calling, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

night bookmobile

Lent – Season of Change, Day 35

I’m not generally a fan of graphic novels, but I pick one up every once in a while because they’re wildly popular, and I think I ought to give them another try. The title of The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger made it a natural for me. I love libraries (it’s National Library Week!), especially bookmobiles. I’ve enjoyed several books about people running bookmobiles and this one would seem to kill two birds with one stone – I’d get to read another book about bookmobiles and also assuage my prejudice against graphic novels.

It wasn’t what I was expecting and it had a bizarre ending, which I won’t go into here. It’s about a young woman, Alexandra, who happens upon a bookmobile while she’s out walking in Chicago late one night. She begins to browse only to discover that she has read every book there. It is, in fact, a collection of every book, indeed, every written word she’s ever read, including cereal boxes. She was charmed. “In the same way that perfume captures the essence of a flower, these shelves of books were a distillation of my life,” she thinks.

I want to stay here,” she tells the librarian. “I want to come with you. I could be your assistant.”

That isn’t possible,” he says and tells her he has to leave.

Over the years, she searches futilely for the bookmobile and completely changes her life, going to library school, so she can work in the night bookmobile and be united with her lifetime of reading.

It occurs to me that, while I don’t have a library of all the books (let alone cereal boxes) I’ve ever read, I do have a sort of card catalog of the past 30-40 years of them. That’s how long I’ve kept a diary listing every book I read.

I have often wondered why I never became a librarian. It seems like a natural for someone who loves books as much as I do although my friend Pat, who teaches seminars for librarians all over the country, tells me that librarians don’t really read as much as you’d think. They’re too busy.

George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” Ignoring the sexism, I’m sure that in at least one of those alternate lives I’ve lived I was a librarian.

The Next Mission

In Finding Your Calling, Lent - Season of Change on April 5, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 31

Why do veterans have such a hard time re-integrating into civilian life? They have notoriously high rates of alcoholism, addiction, homelessness, unemployment and suicide, and we see constant hand wringing and blaming over how to solve these huge problems.

Roadtrip Nation on PBS takes a very personal look at three transitioning vets in “The Next Mission.”

For years, the show has selected three young people who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, put them on a tricked-out green RV and sent them across the nation to interview successful people who faced and conquered those same questions.

The participants this time are a bit older, 28 – 35, facing unique issues. Bernard is trying to start a nonprofit to help other veterans, but “I feel like an alien”; Helen, a single mom forced by an injury to retire after serving 15 years is struggling to find a new identity when “being out is not in my element”; and Sam who joined the Army at 17 and lost both legs in Afghanistan and now fights depression and tries to focus on what he can do instead of what he can no longer do.

In this one-hour special, they visit retired vets who give them advice and tell their own stories about discovering the opportunities of post-military life. “Don’t think of it as military life and civilian life; it’s life,” says a motivational speaker who came very close to suicide.

Yesterday is yesterday. Do something today.” “Use your military discipline and training.” “Find your purpose.” “Help other people.” “Talk about the things we learned that we are capable of.” “Go to school,” offered other vets who had made it out of the “Bat Cave” of depression, confusion and despair.

I’ve always liked this show and wished it had been available when I was young. I also wish that about computers and the internet. Now, though, I wish every struggling veteran could have a chance to take this trip.