In 2014 I rambled from East Coast to Gulf Coast to West Coast, interviewing folks about the role service plays in their lives. Always a quick study, it only took about a hundred interviews for me to decide that, hey, business cards would be a good idea.
In fairness, I’d figured this out as early as New Orleans – but it took until Santa Barbara, a 10-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean, for me to settle in one place long enough to design and order these cardboard tokens of professionalism. I sat in my friends’ living room, playing with the abundance of possibilities in Vistaprint – 500 for 10 bucks, by the way – until I created a design that told recipients who, at that point in my journey, I thought I was.
Who I was, in part, was a person in profound denial about the fact he had an actual job, with actual responsibilities, waiting back on the East Coast.
Understandable enough. I was six months into my research sabbatical. So it was only natural that I rejected Assumption College blue and white for the earth tones of brown, beige and green, and that I ignored the school seal for an impressionistic swirl of mountains and forest. The image suggested not only my love of hills and woods, but also the blur of my year so far. Meanwhile, while the font was sharp enough, my employer and job title were in smaller, blander type than my blog – servingthestory.com.
But a month later I was back in Worcester, and a month after that I was back in that job – teaching English and directing a community service learning program. Slowly but surely the symbolic typography of my life shifted to a reality in which my paying job was accorded 24-point bold status, while the importance of this blog shrank down to agate – the microscopic type of baseball box scores.
But my business card isn’t entirely a lie. I’ve blogged precious little because, for the last year and a half, I’ve been working on a book-length account of my service road trip. With each revising I’m also reliving – remembering again the extraordinary kindness of the people I met along the way, and the opportunities they gave me to see, in an often brutal world, the better angels of our natures. The Whole Service Trip, as I call my project, is actually more than a trip – for a trip implies an end, and, after that end, a return to some norm in which one serves less. Whereas these folks, well, they’re lifers.
Their stories, and so those of so many others I’ve met since, still deserve telling. As do various facts, insights, and links.
And lest I be tempted to forget, there’s the reminder of this card, which I still hand out to strangers. On the off chance that one of those strangers actually acts upon the information on business cards, well, I should be there to greet them.
So, to the folks who are visiting Serving the Story for the first time, welcome (and sorry if, being a Southerner, I seemed overly friendly). To the rest of you, well, you already know that about me, and you stuck around anyway, so thanks. There is so much to share – so many stories of people thinking, and feeling, and acting, beyond the immediate sphere of their lives, hoping to make the world a kinder and fairer place for people they don’t even know.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.
So thank you for what you’ve done in 2015 … and for what you, and others, figure to do in the year to come.