(An image from the annual Crow festival in Montana. The festival is to showcase native culture and rodeo!)
My decision to participate in a post-graduate volunteer program gained its roots during a small group conversation on a muggy, mosquito-infested Cincinnatian summer night. The conversation that was held in that Pleasant Ridge backyard was nothing out of the ordinary for that summer – our group had been meeting for about a month and had been brainstorming about simplistic lifestyles: what it meant and how we could incorporate the term’s myriad philosophies into our own lives. After reading numerous materials and discussing what simplicity meant to us at that point in our lives, our group had come to a standstill. We had gained the necessary knowledge and our minds were fertile to implement a simple lifestyle, but we asked ourselves, “So what’s next? How do we live out these values we’ve been talking so much about?”
As an up-and-coming senior, the next step inevitably involved my life post-graduation. Overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a job with a degree that didn’t include a career track; I struggled to find optimism in being able to live a values-driven life while attempting to “survive” in a job market that isn’t exactly conducive to simplicity. I vented my worries to our group that summer night, and the alleviation to my troubles was proposed as being a year or two of service in volunteer program. The solution was perfect: I could form a lifestyle around the values that are important me, while simultaneously gaining job experience. It was an opportunity to ease into adulthood with the nurture of community and reflection while striving towards social justice.
So that fall I attended CFJ’s Post-Grad Volunteer Fair and was amazed by the number of opportunities both domestically and internationally to serve. I came home with a bag-full of pamphlets and brochures recruiting me to serve with the Jesuits, the Presbyterians, the Capuchins, the Vincentians, the Non-denominational, the Government, the Episcopalians… It was both reassuring and overwhelming: reassuring in that my decision wasn’t too alternative that there wouldn’t be opportunities to live how I wanted to, but overwhelming in that there were too many decisions to choose from. I could see myself gaining irreplaceable experience and thoroughly enjoying every single program that was available.
During Christmas break I made a nice and organized spreadsheet outlining all of the programs that were of interest to me in an attempt to reach some conclusion as to where my life should go the coming year. I could tell anyone the pros and cons of such and such program relative to this and that program, but after hours of researching programs, organizing, and daydreaming, I came to no definitive decision. I narrowed down the applications I would fill out to three programs and my plan was to submit those three and hope for the best.
When the application deadlines approached, however, I submitted just one. I love to say it was fate that I was accepted into the only program I applied to, which is somewhat true, but fate always looks best in hindsight. In reality, I was overwhelmed with school work, anxious to have a solidified future (I’ve been focusing on practicing patience in my post-grad life), and the thought of making another decision was nauseating. So I went with my gut and was graciously accepted by the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and was placed in a rural town in Montana where I am serving at St. Labre Catholic Indian School which provides countless opportunities and resources to the surrounding Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations.
Reflecting on the timeline from that summer night when I first decided to participate in a volunteer program to now, over two months into my service. It’s ironic how I perceived a decision that was based on a desire to live simply as one being defined by complexity. While the spring semester is generally nerve-wracking for any college senior, the amount of anxiety I placed into my service experience seems silly considering how perfectly everything has played out. I’m ecstatic about continuing the path towards simplicity and developing a career in social justice. My placement in Montana solidifies my decision with each passing day. To those who are considering a year of service: do your research – there are plenty of opportunities – but don’t let the multitude of options be overwhelming. Go with your gut and Grace will make it happen.
Ben Rumbaugh ( second from right) is a Xavier graduate from the class of 2013. While at Xavier he participated in the Summer Service Internship program and went on Alternative Breaks. His friends call him “Ben – Jamin”