Friday, February 4, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

Ask not, “What is the meaning of life?” but “What is the meaning of my life?”
~ Gregg Levoy, author of Callings

Why are you walking the earth?   What is your call in life?  Okay, narrow it down to one call then - just one call for now.     
I’ll name one of mine.  In an earlier post, Defining Moments, I mention that as a child I watched The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller, and was so deeply impacted by the acting that I eventually find myself walking in Annie Sullivan’s shoes.  In real life. 
Down the road I meet my own Helen Keller, a teenage girl I’ll call Liza.  A girl abandoned by her own mother and left in the care of a state institution. 
Far from being indulged and spoiled rotten, as Helen had been early in life, this girl was dumped off at the school for the deaf as a young child and basically forgotten.   Weekends, when parents came to collect their children and bring them home until Sunday night, Liza was left behind.
Little wonder she lost her way and became more like Sybil, whose childhood was so harrowing to her that she developed multiple personalities.  
Alone in her own silent world, Liza is prone to spontaneous outbursts of violence, and it’s nothing unusual for teachers and students to suddenly see books and papers flying across the classroom during one of her tirades.  
Thus my job as governess is created.  So instead of attending classes, Liza remains in the dorm with me all day where she works on her school assignments and seems perfectly normal…. 
Until the morning she assumes a character I’ve never met, and all hell breaks loose… her hands and fingers flying like fireworks through the air…
Face, usually ashen and pale as the moon, now darkening from the sudden rush of blood, black pupils dilated wide as marbles, waning blue eyes glaring at me…
 A legend of demons unleashed.   Before I can even grasp what’s going down she socks it to me and topples me over. 
And is suspended from the school to return home to mommy dearest.
 I have no idea what became of Liza.             
Another year I’m called to set the captives free.  Release them from their prison for a brief reprieve each day.  They’ve been herded like lambs into brick buildings, divided by age, forced to stay inside these walls for the crime of being born deaf.
Dorm parents yes.  Teachers yes.  Their mother’s love and warm embrace, a profound absence. Darkness looms heavy in this place like a long cold winter without end. 
You sense this hunger for escape so strong, this thirst for freedom – every child’s birthright – denied too long.  Yet when they see me, smiles bloom on faces, for I come offering the gift of short-lived freedom.  Time for P.E.            
 These children have no scarcity of energy, believe you me.  In fair weather we play outside, but on rainy or freezing cold days we stay in the gym where they tumble on mats or play Red Rover or tag or whatever inside game I can create. 
When unleashed from their cramped classrooms and taken to the playground they rush off in all directions and scatter like loosed chickens.    
My first impulse is to yell at the top of my lungs, “BACK OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!”  And that’s exactly what I do for a few days, until I realize the absolute futility of shouting to deaf kids.  By the end of each day I’m frazzled from running after them in every direction.
 It takes me weeks to convince them that recess is not a synonym for escape. Although I wholeheartedly understand their elation at recess, they are still in my charge and I’m not about to let them cut loose and flee campus.  Remember, this is not a maximum security prison.   
 I have no choice but to establish clear boundaries:  You see this line?  First big toe that crosses it goes straight back to jail.  No fun, no games, no breather.  Straight back to jail.  No exceptions.  Cry, wail, whatever; back to jail if you dare cross my line.     
 It takes a while but they finally get it.
Thankfully, the meaning of my life wasn’t found in continued employment at this school.  Calls tend to change shape and propel us toward new vistas.  Each step toward our unique destiny is worth the journey, no matter how harrowing at times.

So, what is a call in your life?  And how did you discover it? 


  1. I like it when you said: Calls tend to change shape and propel us toward new vistas. Each step toward our unique destiny is worth the journey, no matter how harrowing at times.

    Life is an ongoing journey into moving closer and closer to who Christ calls us to be.
    Those "harrowing" times are worth it for sure :)

    I believe I've been called to serve others. Past experiences have softened my heart and gave me a strong desire to bind the brokenhearted, to give hope to the poor...for God got me through times of suffering and pain and I wish to give hope to others who might be going through similiar experiences.

  2. That's a very powerful story Debra, and thought provoking. My daughter is a psychiatric nurse, and has had similar incidents. Currently as a Christian, she's helping various Church groups develop policies and implementing these to handle the reintegration of mentally challenged people back into the churches embrace.
    I admire the work she does.

  3. It's so sad that even now we destined children to be sent to a place where instead of nurturing them they become submerged in their own dark places. What a ray of light you must of been for them. This post made me shudder at the thought of people turning their back on what is ultimately a cry for help, a cry to be heard.

  4. So very interesting. My nephew is deaf and has every opportunity in the world. He has said he sees himself as no different from anybody else. As a matter of fact he has had some opportunities not afforded to others. My calling is in fact my vocation. Motherhood. I've had 5 children and 5 foster children that I helped raise. It's what I wanted to do since I was a child myself and it's what I still continue to do. I guess I'll do it until I work myself out of a job!

  5. Jessica, I can’t think of a higher call than to serve others, bind the broken hearted, and give hope to the poor. Past experiences do soften our hearts and teach us how to reach out to others in their pain and suffering. Thanks for your labor of love in your writing too.
    You continue to bless more and more people every day.

    Jim, what an amazing and admirable work your daughter is doing as a psychiatric nurse. Sounds like she is living out her faith in a most productive way. I know you must be so proud of her and the noble job she’s doing. I’ll bet she has quite a few stories of her own to tell.

    Sarah Jane, this post was merely the tip of the iceberg, revealing only a tiny glimpse of how pitiful this place was. One of the saddest realities was how insensitive some of the teachers were, allowing the less popular and more unattractive children to be bullied and abused by the others. I once witnessed a scene where one of these little victims of verbal abuse tried to appeal to a teacher for help, only to be told, “Stop being such a tattle tale!” No wonder the kids had learned to bully others with impunity.

  6. Tia, your deaf nephew is from a loving home environment, no doubt. My deaf friends, the ones who see themselves as no different from their hearing counterparts, have become productive members of society too.
    Motherhood is a high call… 5 children and 5 foster children that you helped raised? There has never been a dull moment in your house! Chances are, you’ll never work yourself out of a job, for now come the grandchildren… Kudos!

  7. Debra, you are such an inspiration. But what of these childrens parents, where are they.Children are Gods gift to us. Treasures that we have for awhile then they grow just breaks my heart when parents are not there for their children,the best gift that life has to offer. Blessings jane

  8. There is a special place in Heaven for someone like you:)
    My calling? It changes. I spent 15 yrs working in psych with adolescents which was sad but very rewarding. I have spent many years raising animals on a farm and loved every minute of it. We have a not for profit sports organization (4 yrs old now) for under-priviledged girls that my husband and I are founders of and very actively involved in. And then of course, there is my blog that was inspired by my daughter and her health issues that I am continuously challenged in reaching that particular health population.
    I don't know what God has in store for me next, but whatever it is, I will give it 100% and enjoy every minute of it:)

  9. Jane, the children who were nearby went home to their parents after school. The ones who lived too far weren’t as fortunate – for lack of a better word. Yes, children are treasures to be cherished and loved for as long as we have them, for indeed they are grown and gone all too soon.

    Mary, your life has been one adventure after another… working in psych with adolescents must have been fulfilling indeed… and raising animals on a farm as well… then founding a sports organization for underprivileged girls, how rewarding this must be! Plus your informative blog … sounds like you’ve had many calls. What a fruitful and inspiring life you’ve led. I appreciate so much your outlook: whatever God has in store for me next, “I will give it 100% and enjoy every minute of it.” Now that’s the secret to a joyful life!

  10. I loved the story but cant help thinking how differently we treat those who do not look or behave like us.
    Your post made me think and I did but cold not answer it. I do not know what my calling is all I knows there is a path or journey that has been carved out for me and i need to seek it. Something within me is nudging me to work beyond my potential.

  11. Hi Debra,your post really made me think. It is a tough question to answer. 3 Years ago I changed my life completely. I gave up everything that I had and started a new life in a new country. A life where material things are not important but quality of life. People don´t understand why I did it. Why did I give up everything. My calling I believe was to open a hostel or guesthouse for travellers - people from all ages.

    We do get troubled people here, lonely people and some nights we sit in the kitchen and talk. I give a hug, a comforting word and some advice. It helps. I feel God is using me in this way to reach out to people. Is this my real calling? I am not sure only time will tell.

    God bless and keep up the wonderful work that you are doing!

  12. I’ve been at blissdom and now have blissdom plague – blech. I missed your words.

    Your heart – filled with giving, and understanding chimes through these words. God smiles. And no shouting because clearly it won’t do, but a just line in the sand, we all need those.

    Love – I think that’s why I’m here – 1 Corinthians 13 – to live it, drink it in, overflow.

    Thank you,

    God Bless and Keep You
    and Yours

  13. Debra,
    I'm glad you found my blog and glad to have you as the 30th follower.

    You have a great blog and I enjoyed your heart-warming story about children. I'm a retired teacher and have a great love for children.

    Thanks again for visting my blog.

  14. Savira, the book Callings by Gregg Levoy prompted me to glance back at my history and ask myself these questions: What matters? What has always been there? What answers does my past reveal about the questions that are central to my life? What have I found myself saying to the world over and over just by the act of my life? What has been foreshadowed? What have people been telling me all my life? I will be addressing some of these in future posts, as my stream of consciousness is leading in this direction.

    Nelieta, making the move to a new country where quality of life trumps materialism is most certainly a call away from worldly values and standards. Your mission to offer sojourners comfort and advice sounds like a call from God for sure. How many people would make this kind of sacrifice? Would forfeit an old way of life to start anew? I hope to read and learn more of these experiences in future posts at Hostel Tinktinkie...

    Brenda, you and I are fellow contributors to the anthology, Words. Tom Davis, our publisher, has already posted online our biographies… and that’s how I happened to discover your lovely poetry.

    Craig, I recently read in one of your posts that you were going to blissdom… and now am curious to learn just what “blissdom plague” could be :)
    To hear that “God smiles” makes my day, especially on one as dreary and bleak as this one. The skies look like those in The Road, that post-apocalyptic film. You have a knack for speaking “a word in season.” (Isaiah 50:4) - It’s a unique gift from God and a treasure. That, and the love He has filled you with… the greatest gift of all.

  15. Beautiful post- Thanks for all you do with the kids!

    All my best,


  16. Thank you for sharing this,Debra, beautiful posting.

  17. thought provoking and inspiring at the same time - You are doing such a good job Debra - Loved your post!!!

  18. Clayton, we are looking forward to your forthcoming book. Always a pleasure to read your thoughts and words.

    Carlos, Happy birthday Tour Guide!

    Likewise Kriti!

  19. Beautiful post!!! I think I've had a few callings. My most recent is writing my book, which was therapy for me, and apparently for others, which I found to be a beautiful thing.

    Anyhow, loved this post!

  20. Sheila, Zen-Sational Living in on my reading list. As soon as I finish with the book I'm currently reading (on loan from a friend), and one I just recently ordered), I'm looking forward to yours next!

  21. You are a very inspirational woman! Beautiful post!
    I've had different callings at different stages of my life. My very first calling was writing - which I ignored until very recently.
    My second and most fulfilling calling was motherhood. Cliche I know - but very much true in every sense.
    I'm open to any other calling that there may be in store for me...but I'm very happy (and busy) with the ones that are already in my life.
    Thankyou for this post :-)

  22. Hi Debra thanks again for visiting. Oh! Your post has set me sounds like that school is not a very comforting place to be if you have any disability. Kind of appropriate that the sign on the motorway for the school has direction to a prison facility as well!

    Hugs Jane

  23. A deeply moving story sad but sometimes we need sad stories to open oue eyes.
    I started following you today.

  24. Romina, writing seems to be a passion for you and I’m glad you’ve found the time to continue it. Motherhood is among the highest of calls, and gives us lots of fodder for our writing :)

    Jane, that sign is clearly a double entendre! So glad you caught this :) I wasn’t sure that anyone would, but it’s always good to know that some are paying close enough attention to catch these subtleties. You undoubtedly have a sharp eye for detail.

    Thanks Jim. I appreciate the follow and your comment here. I’ll be over to check out your photography too.

  25. Debra, as always enjoyed your post. It also got me thinking a lot too... I couldn't tell you my calling, as I think it changes constantly.

  26. What's my calling? For now, it says, "Go back to your homeland Jorie and begin another journey of your life." This is very true Debra. I have been hoping to go back soon to the country where I belong (Phlippines that is) to be with my family and to embrace a new reality in life. I'm 29, but I have been away for a long time now... so with enough savings to start life anew, I'm heading home soon... But I won't stop travelling though. That is one of the callings I hesitate to give up not unless I'm totally broke or noone's able to fund my hobby. For now, I'm actually enjoying some benefits of a good person that is why I'm able to lead my life in the directions I want it to be. Bless the person behind what I have become now! My gratitude to the person is beyond words...
    Thank you Debra for inspiring me yet once again!

  27. Debbie, I’d guess that one of your calls might be writing? Hope that one doesn’t change :)

    Jorie, I hope and pray that you’ll be able to return to your homeland in the Philippines. Your family and friends there must miss you. I’d say traveling and writing are calls on your life, definitely, for your passion for these is apparent in The Long and Winding Road. Blessings to that special person helping you to follow your bliss!

  28. Your posts never cease to blow my mind! I thought about this real hard. Hubby and I are planning to do a round-the-world trip someday with our baby. We love traveling so much! Perhaps along the way I'll find out. For now, I guess it's mommyhood :)

  29. Thank you Hippie Mum. A trip around the world with your baby would be grand since you and your husband love traveling.

    What could be a higher call than mommy hood? We only get one chance to make our children’s life worthwhile, so I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than this! Enjoy these precious moments while they last.

  30. You have a beautiful heart, Debra. So glad I ended up here today. God has surely placed a call on your life...


  31. Deborah Ann,
    Well, I see that you have at least one call too: Heavenly Humor! Happiness is... blogging friends who inspire and delight.

  32. powerful story.. i m following u can u do the same n check out my blog

  33. Thank you for stopping by my blog and giving me your word of encouragement. I love this post. I have been wondering what my calling is, feeling a little lost. Then one morning I read this verse. " . . . anyone wanting to be the greatest must be the least -- the servant of all. Mark 9:35. In an instant my life made sense.

  34. Hi Debra .... Roberta here from Inspired & Creating. You left me a comment about a friend who does Gluten free. I'd love her URL if you have it.

  35. Thank you Ben. Your profile is not available – this I discovered when I clicked on "Ben" here. And when I Googled the link you left, there were several sites by this title, so I was a little lost. But I will keep trying until I find the right one. Is your name on your site anywhere?

    Territory Mom, thank you for this quote from Mark 9:35. How true, how true. This is especially meaningful in light of the role we have as moms. Suddenly the epiphany…. and life makes sense. Thank you for sharing this.

    Roberta, the easiest way to find Mary’s site is to look here on the comment section and you’ll see her smiling face. Just click on her name and you’ll find her blog.

  36. Hi there! Thanks for your visit and comment tonight and for becoming a new follower of mine. I love getting to know other bloggers.

    I've enjoyed my visit here. What a wonderful blog you have! I am now a follower of yours.


  37. Thank you Kat,my new blogging friend.
    ~ Blessings

  38. Your heart rings through in these words – all of them. You have the heart of a lioness.

    My call? To love – just to do 1 Corinthians 13 love – simple. When did I find it - well I found it in my head before my heart and my heart has been catching up.

    I’m really glad I read you today.

    God Bless and Keep you and yours

  39. Craig, I’ll take the brave heart of a lioness any day:)
    On 1 Corinthians 13, you’ve nailed it. This clearly seems to be your major, a truth made evident in your writing. It’s true for all of us that first the seeds are planted in the head, then sink deeper until they’ve made their way to the heart.
    And then comes the fruit of love.
    In the words of Mother Teresa:
    "The fruit of silence is prayer... the fruit of prayer is faith... the fruit of faith is love... the fruit of love is service... the fruit of service is peace."
    Goes right along with your recent messages from James, being doers of the word.
    ~ Blessings

  40. Debra, Thank you for making me see how lucky in many ways my daughter is. We might not have a lot but we do have plenty of love to give. Whether I know what my calling in life is? I'll have to get back to you on that.

    Bless A

  41. Alejandro, you already know what one of your callings is. We all have more than one, and you and I are among those who have the do you know?
    Alright, I'll give you hint. Amelie.


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