After a barrage of cooking posts, I figured it was time to switch gears and focus on something a bit more introspective.
This morning Lindsay and I had our first book club meeting, although I use that term loosely. First, I had no idea what I was doing. Just before we met for breakfast I was frantically googling how one actually runs a book club. It harkened back to my days of being an English major, and I felt a flash of guilt realizing how much I’d forgotten about analyzing literature.
An hour later, I was armed with a list of vague questions about themes, character evolution and passages. Since it was just Lindsay and I (another reason it’s probably not a true book club — but if you’re in the Columbia area and want to join us, let me know! I promise we’re fun!) we took some creative liberties with the conversation. It was probably more of a life chat, but in some ways I think that’s the purpose of this particular book.
This month we read The Heart and the Fist. It’s almost like Tim O’Brien (and if you haven’t read him, do it. You can’t go wrong with The Things They Carried) meets a meaning-of-life chat. In other words, it was right up my alley.
What I think I loved most is that it’s a challenge – not as a piece of literature, but in its intent. One of the main themes focused on living out your values and putting your thoughts into action. The author (who lives in St. Louis and is actually a research fellow where I got my MPA – double bonus!) pointed out time and time again that you need more than just passion and knowledge. You also need to do something.
“I was fortunate also that I had professors who, while appreciating the value of contemplation, understood the importance of doing, of translating thoughts into deed.” (89)
Unfortunately, I’m more guilty of the former. I love being introspective and having meaningful conversations…but how can I take it to the next step in actually doing something about it? Case in point: public health. I chose that field of study because I love chronic disease prevention (diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc). Health is something I value, and while the passion and education is certainly there, what can I say I’m actually doing to help people in my community or even my own social circles prevent or manage chronic diseases?
So, I’ve decided to take action. For years I’ve entered data, created fact sheets and looked at trends for arthritis courses in Missouri. Now I’m looking into teaching one of those courses. Not only could I carry out my passion, but it also gives me the opportunity to impact the lives and health others – another key theme in the book. It’s actually a point he makes very clear within the first few pages:
“And a good life, a meaningful life, a life in which we can enjoy the world and live with purpose, can only be built if we do more than live for ourselves.” (11)
All my introspection is fine and dandy, but it needs to be bigger than myself.
Ultimately I think this book reminds me of why I’m in the line of work that I am and what I feel adds meaning to my own life. It did the same for Lindsay, too. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to study and pursue my passion, which isn’t an opportunity given to a lot of people. It’s time to take my humanitarian education and do something with it. And hey, maybe someday I’ll even have the privilege of writing an inspirational book about it!