Sunday, November 7, 2010

Process of Elimination

One of the central questions I've been trying to answer during my time at The Clinton School of Public Service is this:  How do I use my specific set of gifts and talents to benefit the most people?

This has been a tricky question to answer because, like most folks, I'm not fully aware of all of my gifts and talents.  Most of us don't realize our potential.  To me that's one of the strongest arguments for programs that emphasize field service.  Nearly twenty years ago, the full year intern teaching experience provided by Trinity University helped me enter the classroom more prepared and now my three field projects at the Clinton School are helping me understand public service in more depth than I would have from pure classwork.

In some ways it's been a two-year process of elimination.  From my time in Israel, I've realized that I don't have the gift of linguistics.  Being in a country in which I couldn't read or speak either of the two primary languages showed me clearly that learning a new language doesn't come easily to me and; therefore, limits my ability to make a difference.  I'm certain I did some useful work in Israel, and I'm very glad I went, but I think my impact could have been greater if I had a better ear for languages.

From my current experience in Canada, I can safely rule out 'professional researcher' from the list of future service careers.  Apparently I'm more of an extrovert than I thought because sitting in a cubicle for hours at a time has taught me that I really need human interaction. 

About a month ago, I escaped from my cubicle for an hour and wandered around the nearby neighborhood.  I found a local branch of the Toronto public library.  On the bulletin board inside I saw an advertisement for "English Conversation Circles". This program offered weekly meetings for people interested in improving their English. "I can speak English," I thought, "and there are no cubicles involved!"  So I volunteered to help.

The Roots of Empathy folks gave me permission to take two hours every Friday to be a part of this program.  It's been one of the highlights of my week for the past three weeks.  I've met and talked with people from Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Somalia, Malaysia, and China.  I love it!  While "Professional researcher" and "Linguist" may have been eliminated in this process, I think "Conversation facilitator" has found a spot on my list of gifts and talents.  Now the question is: How do I use that skill to have the biggest positive impact?

I'm open to suggestions.  And job offers. :-)

2 comments:

  1. Conversation facilitator was what you did at ISA so well for so many years. Whether it was the Critical Friends group or the group projects in Multimedia, you were an expert.

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