by Melissa Spas, Managing Director of Education and Engagement
What does it mean to pursue vocation? Is this a privilege reserved for a few, to respond to a sense of spiritual calling? Or perhaps we can all hope to find a sense of purpose, meaning, and value in our lives, which we might understand as vocation, personal integrity, or a life well-lived. What can we learn about giving from those who have dedicated their whole lives to this pursuit?
Spending a great deal of my time around clergy and other religious leaders, I have been considering the different meanings of “vocation”, and wondering how I can wholeheartedly respond to the spiritual imperative in my life, and how I might invite others to make sense of their vocation too. I see again and again, at the intersection of faith and philanthropy, that people are hungry to make meaning in their lives. In Lake Institute’s educational programs, participants consider the challenging work of nurturing the discernment of donors, as they consider how giving from their religious identity might be transformative. Clergy, religious, lay leaders, and other people of faith respond to a sense of calling in a whole host of ways, and philanthropic giving, of time, money, resources, and identity can be one meaningful response.
This integration of vocation and giving can be freeing, or exhilarating. I have a deep wish, myself, to align my work – really, my whole life – with my faith, and I see that yearning in others too. We might consider our work to be a part or expression of our vocation, and perhaps there is an “avocation” that connects us more closely to a sense of call, helping us to make meaning in our lives. Giving might well reflect either of these paths toward alignment of faith in our lives. At the start of the Christian year, with 2019 fast-approaching, I’m grateful as I reflect back on all that was accomplished, notice the things that remain undone, and relish the promise that comes with a new year on the horizon, and vocation seems to be a thread running through it all.