Monday, October 5, 2009

Hannah...Havin' a "Wales" of a Time...

All five of you who read this blog from time to time know that I have three wonderful daughters, whom I love and adore. They are all equally talented and gifted, albeit in mostly different, but specific arenas of life, unlike their dad who is mostly a "Davy of all trades and master of none". Hannah is my middle daughter and from the time she was toddling, she was entertaining the world. She loves people...and I don't mean it in the Charlie Brown speaking to Linus way, "I love is people I can't stand"...Hannah really loves people. We would walk into a restaurant, even one we had eaten at before, and Hannah would say, "I don't want to eat here...let's go somewhere else." When quizzed as to her reason, she informed me that there weren't enough people at the joint...she didn't care about the food, she just wanted to be where there were lots of people around. Hannah would tell you herself that her academic career in high school was not stellar. She was a good student, but she wasn't a straight "A" student either. She loved being at school, but it was not the insatiable desire for knowledge (that did come a little later as she went to college) that pulled her back there was people. Hannah loves people.

As she entered her senior year in high school she and her friends were exploring their college choices. Hannah came to me that fall and expressed a desire to delay the beginning of her college career to apply to be a part of the Mission Year program. This is a wonderful ministry begun by Bart Campolo (inspired by his dad, Tony) out of Eastern University in St. David's PA (near Philly) that placed young adults 18-28 in groups of six to live for a year in some of America's most impoverished and dangerous inner cities. Their job was not to evangelize or proselytize, but to live in community with the poor and love like Jesus. The motto of Mission Year is "Love God...Love People...Nothing Else Matters." I was a youth minister by profession who felt like his calling was to call God-given uniqueness out of students and challenge them to live and love dangerously in the world. Now, my 17 year old daughter was telling me that she believed God was calling her to go live among the poor and take a year of her life devoted to loving the folks in the fabled "Lower Bottoms" area of West Oakland. I struggled and prayed and worried, but in the end I had to put my parental money where my ministerial mouth was and trust Hannah's sense of calling and purpose. She did, indeed, spend her first year out of high school living with five other young adults ages 22 and younger (Hannah was the youngest at age 18) and they all worked in inner city schools (Hannah was a teacher's aide in a kindergarten and 1st grade class) and the year changed her life. She was still compassionate and tender-hearted toward the suffering of the world, but she became tough and wise as well.

As that year drew to a close she began to research again where she would go to school. Belmont University in Nashville rose to the top of the list, she was accepted there and began her studies in the fall of 2005. In her freshman year the President of Mission Year came to visit and speak at Belmont, and while there he asked Hannah to speak at a chapel assembly and share her experiences with MY, which she did, like a pro. Wanting to continue to serve as a part of her studies, she went downtown to sign up to volunteer as a Big Sis with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Nashville. and after looking at her resume, her interviewers asked her to become the liaison on the Belmont campus for BBBS. Later she and several others helped establish a BBBS's chapter on the Belmont campus, the first such chapter in the state of Tennessee. At the end of the year at a university assembly she was presented the annual outstanding freshman service award. In the years that followed Hannah continued to work with BBBS, but also longed to, in some way, replicate the Mission Year experience on the college campus. In her sophomore year the university responded to her requests and put Hannah and three other female students in a house off-campus for the purpose of living in community with the neighborhood. They called it "Service Year". That program is still in effect today.

On September 12th Hannah flew out of Austin headed for London, and eventually Bangor, Wales where she is continuing her social work studies in the Study Abroad program. She will be there through the end of the semester, and is loving seeing a new part of the world (that's getting to be a habit for her these days) learning all her pretty little head can hold and doing what she does best... meeting and caring about people. She is scheduled to graduate from Belmont in May. To say that I am proud of her goes without saying...what I am most proud of is that she is her own beautiful, compassionate, funny and God-listening woman, charting her own course and making, literally, the world a better place.

If you want to follow her journey in Wales, and see some of her lovely photography, you can check out her blog, Observation Full and Felt.

Journey on Hannah...I love you!