The word “vocare” in ancient Latin means “to call, to call forth, to summon.” We derive the word “vocation” from it. However, in a spiritual context, I believe it means much more than your profession. It has to do with your essence, your innermost being. The leader of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s, Martin Luther, trusted in what he called the priesthood of all believers; that all are ministers of God in their own way, whether a farmer, an artisan, a manager, or a congresswoman. I am not going so ministerial here, but I am committed to the idea that every human being on the planet has a “calling.” This calling defines us and shapes us. It is what we are passionate about. It is our hopes and dreams. It is what we are called to do. It is in our blood. It is our soul and world path.
Interestingly enough, although it is in service to self, our calling is not intrinsically selfish. Some aspect of our purpose, of our reason for being, involves getting along with each other. The Santa Fe Institute of Science argued in the 1980s that human nature is not based upon the old law of evolution adage, “the survival of the fittest.” Rather, there is something inherent in our species called the “Human Cooperation Gene.” Humans and societies that cooperate have a much better long-term survival rate. There is less war and stressful conflict, and more emphasis on using resources for the betterment of all (education, health, recreation). Consequently, our calling involves some aspect of service to and cooperation with others.
Imagine a world, where each of us does take and receive (money, resources, power, love, status), but is also committed to give something back (money, resources, power, love, status). Perhaps, we will even give back a little more in appreciation for what has been given to us. Can you imagine the harmonious and beautiful balance in such a world? It does not have to be a pipe dream, but it does require everyone to consider getting on board. At the same time, this is not a prescription for doing away with ambition or competition. If we follow our calling, those can be important attributes for striving to do our best. They are just not a cutthroat purpose unto themselves; a self-centered striving for power or status at the expense of others.
Sadly, many do not hear the “call” or know that they have a “calling.” Through our schooling, we raise so many people to be obedient little citizens and soldiers, to be followers. It is built upon the Prussian Model of education that is centuries out of date. Similarly, many parents feed into that through encouraging their children to strive for safe and secure jobs with pensions in industry and government, not noticing that in the 21st Century, there are few safe and secure jobs with pensions anymore, anywhere. In addition, a number of parents raise their children with the same destructive messages they were raised with from abusive (“You’re lazy,” “Good for nothing,” “Never amount to anything,” and far worse) to insensitive and ignoring (never showing how proud they are of their child, not attending their child’s activities, not showing that the child is valued, not listening to their child, not role modeling important life values). These messages snuff the life out of hopes and dreams. Much of my counseling work is an attempt to repair the damage from these childhoods: to raise self-esteem, to assist them in believing they have a right to their wants and needs, to help them open to their hopes and dreams, to discover who they truly are.
Recently, a young man confronted his father about the father being a poor role model regarding the importance of reading and education. The father played video games by himself throughout the boy’s youth, and never read to his children at bedtime or took them to the park or any outside activities. The boy never learned how fun it is to explore in the world and in the world of imagination through reading. To his credit the father was very sad and acknowledged his failures which brought father and son closer together. The young man is now having to kick start his own hopes and dreams without the benefit of a firm foundation. But, to his credit, he is determined, overcoming his fears and starting college. Now I am helping him decide what he wants to be when he grows up—and that it is his decision and his alone.
Yet, for many, they felt they had little choice. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this story. A young person has a talent (art, music, film) and wants to pursue that in college, only to be talked out of it or be completely blocked by a parent because it is not a practical profession and they will not be able to make a living. Years later, the person is in a job she or he detests, and they have a great grief that they did not have the courage to stand up to their parents and fight for what they loved doing.
The stories go on and on. And, it is not always about being blocked. Many parents are supportive of their children’s choices. However, we don’t always find our calling right away. Sometimes our own fears and insecurities get in the way. Sometimes we have more than one calling. When I was young, I was called to Social Work and child advocacy, something that shaped my counseling career for the rest of my life. I was later called to teaching at the university level. Still later, I was called to the ministry. Finally, I was called to write a book. And, I am not done—even at 70 years of age. The point is, our calling may continue evolving over many years and we never really completely stop it. Like I said, it is in our blood.
So, this is a call to action. If you haven’t received your “call,” then it is time to start asking your version of God or Higher Power to show you the way. If you are ready and open to discover the real you, then you will see the doors open. It doesn’t matter if you love working on automobiles or complex mathematical equations. The universe is just waiting for you. No matter what the call—to be a great parent, to be a great partner, to a profession, to a volunteer service, to public service, to an action such as writing a book—then, you can say, “I AM Called!” Come, join The Vocare Movement.