Winter 2006: From Center Hall
February 1, 2006
BY ALL RIGHTS BILL PLACHER SHOULD be writing this column. The theme for this issue is "Callings," and he is the expert. If you have not yet read Bill's latest book, Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom in Vocation, I suggest that you, regardless of your religion, put this magazine down right now and order a copy, preferably from the Wabash College Bookstore.
Usually when discussion turns to a calling,we have in mind an individual being pulled (called) to do something. We tend to think that he or she is not only being pulled, but also being pulled for a lifetime. Much of the pressure on students to decide now to become doctors, lawyers or what have you stems from this common view that you have only one calling. Yet the evidence is all around us that few people enjoy a single calling during the course of their lives. A small sample such as our alumni body makes it clear that doctors, lawyers, teachers and all kinds of other people end up with not just different jobs, but different careers.We strive to make sure our students understand that when they choose a major and think about what they are going to do next, they are not making irrevocable decisions that last a lifetime—and that's good news.
When we talk about callings,we also tend to think about jobs. Seldom do we talk about a calling as an avocation. Yet, avocations enrich our lives and, more often than not, enrich the lives of others. Unencumbered by any data, I believe recent generations are less preoccupied with traditional success in a career and more concerned about activities outside the workplace that bring a sense of fulfillment to them and to their lives.We need to do all we can to remind students that their liberal arts education should help them make a life as well as a living, and that life is so much more than a job (even if that job changes often).
Finally, when we talk about callings, we almost always speak of an individual being called. Who does the calling? When we try to answer this question at all, we typically mention a god who calls us to some higher level or aspiration. Rarely do we think of an institution doing the calling.And yet that is what Wabash does. Wabash calls young men to reach higher than they have ever reached before—in personal aspirations and in what they can contribute to society.
Making this call, the College incurs a truly special obligation to those young men who answer it. The calling itself elevates the relationship to an unusual level, one that requires both parties to do their absolute best. It is a noble and humbling task, and one I have been privileged—I mean that literally—to have shared with so many of you.
Contact President Ford at email@example.com