I am teaching again! As a volunteer. One of my passions is helping students who are struggling with reading and so I am revelling in this chance. In order to accept the volunteer position though, I had to turn down a part time job offer at a private school that I love dearly. This type of decision feels very familiar…
Rewind to 2004, Comox, BC. I was awaiting a letter from North Island College accepting me into the nursing program or telling me I had to wait another year. In the two years waiting for this letter I spent time on electives and volunteered with a youth organization called YFC. YFC provided space for teens to learn about faith, play some wild games and build relationships in a safe atmosphere. I loved being with the teens, I felt like I was in highschool again writing wacky skits, drinking blended McDonalds Happy Meals, dancing to drums and guitar, taking a break from studying and adult life, and, once in a while, staying up all night at “sleepovers”.
Around April 2004, I received my affirmative letter from the nursing program as well as an invitation to do a summer internship with YFC, which lead to possible employment.
First life decision, was nursing still calling or was a new road opening? Being with the youth certainly gave me joy but I ended up choosing nursing. The story that followed from that you can find in the previous post.
Fast forward to summer 2006. Flourishing in China. I travelled there with IVCF. Similar to YFC but working with university students instead of teens. Perhaps that was my calling? I was a living example of the value of IVCF, a struggling student that needed community and encouragment. Perhaps this was a way I could give back? When my nursing dream died I seriously considered pursuing this path. The plan was to move to Nanaimo, finish my BA, meet students and do an IVCF internship. I was determined! (That Scottish stubbornness)
What do you get when you have a “homeless” housesitting student, with no money, a lot of debt, and a very casual job? A singing girl on the sidewalk in downtown Courtenay with a money bucket saying “raising tuition money”. I raised over $100 in one day… No, I am not that good of a singer. I would have made about $2.50 if it wasn’t for a lady from my church that saw me and said, “I heard you speak last Sunday about how you wanted to go to school in Nanaimo. Here you go!” She handed me a cheque for $100. This was just one example of the incredible Island community I experienced. I was “homeless” a few times when my parents moved to Quadra and when I was in between rentals. Every time, someone from my church just happened to need a housesitter.
If $100 was enough for tuition, books and lodging in Nanaimo I would have been on my way. Because I was in so much debt already a student loan seemed ridiculous.
A friend once said, “if it’s God’s will, it’s his bill” This was certainly true when I raised over $4000 to go to China two times. I stomped my foot and said, “God, why not Nanaimo?” I had visited my cousin in residence there and longed for that seemingly exciting life.
Nanaimo offered a program called Liberal Studies. I remember a snowy day, while housesitting, of course, looking out the window and gazing at a computer screen filled with University program outlines. Liberal Studies popped out because it’s main curriculum was the bible. I can study the bible at a secular university?! Sweet, that will be easy! It wasn’t. I was very humbled, another story. So my heart was set on Nanaimo and Liberal Studies.
As the days drew nearer to deadlines and my money flew farther away I started getting emails from VIU in Nanaimo. LIBERAL STUDIES PROGRAM OFFERED IN COURTENAY!
No, I want to go to Nanaimo, I want to go to a city. I felt like George Bailey from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. One more thing keeping me at home. I deleted the emails but they kept coming and becoming more personal. Dear Melody, we see that your residence is in Courtenay. We are pleased to tell you that Liberal Studies is being offered this fall at your campus. Please register soon.
A friend who always told the honest truth, even when it hurts, finally said. “Look Melody,
you have no money, you have a job and a home here and you can study the same program.” He was older so he didn’t understand my desire for dorm living, but he was right so I stayed. Work eventually picked up and I wasn’t quite as poor. I ended up living in some fun houses that perhaps rivaled wild dorm style and studying Liberal studies with two good friends and making many more. Our class in Courtenay was small and intimate and better.
Fast forward to 2010. I was driving home from a Victoria visit considering where I would go for teaching school. UVIC? SFU? VIU? I finally had an excuse to move out from little town to city because there was no teaching program in Courteney… yet.
Through this whole season of decisions, I had started to hear a gentle voice in my heart. My Shepherd’s leading. He spoke soft words about teaching when I was fed up with school. 8 years to get a BA? I could have been a vet afterall. I am done with school! I will just be a care aide for the rest of my life. It’s not bad, I can survive.
You love children. The voice would say. Children bring you joy. Volunteering in Sunday school and babysitting had shown me that. Yet babysitting and preschool wasn’t intellectually stimulating enough for me. I needed something more.
When I thought about teaching, I pictured a room of 30 misbehaving children screaming and throwing things at a very grouchy teacher. I did not want that either.
What courses are you going to take to finish your BA? the gentle voice asked. I had two more electives to complete.
Well, I have always wanted to learn more about Canadian History and I want to get better at Math… It turns out those were the exact elective courese I needed to get my post Bach education degree..
It wasn’t just the inner gentle voice that prodded me. A few of my home support clients had been teachers and they often shared stories.
“You should be a teacher.” One lady said. “It’s only one more year.”
One more year rang in my head.
You love children. You want to work at Esperanza and help the kids there…
“Esperanza is looking for teachers.” I read in a prayer letter.
Epiphany. I am going to be a teacher.
Joy exploded in me. I reached for the phone and called my parents. They confirmed my calling. Big city here I come!
The gentle voice simply said “wait”. Wait? No, I am going to research SFU and UBC and… wait
On that drive back from Victoria I heard, maybe they will start a teaching program in Courtenay…
I chuckled, No, Liberal Studies, a glorified book club, is one thing… but teaching here? I don’t think so.
One week later, I received an email.
TEACHING PROGRAM NOW OFFERED ON CAMPUS IN COURTENAY. SIGN UP FOR INFO SESSION. PART TIME PROGRAM.
By now I had learned not to argue. Part time program? I could keep working and keep the debt down? Dorm life didn’t seem as exciting now either.
I drove to the info session and stepped out of my car.
Run! The voice said. I ran to my calling, the joy growing every minute. That particular teaching program only ran for my class and then discontinued. I was just in time.
I want to go deeper with each of these stories, and I will, but the thing that is standing out to me today is patterns of decisions…
YFC or nursing? IVCF or teaching? China or Comox Christian school? I received two job offers in the same week. (I happened to receive and sign the China contract first.)
Reply to Forest’s facebook message or ignore him? 😉 Sure glad I replied!
Volunteer or teach part time?
Kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure Stories I read as a kid.. Turn to page 100 if you decide to go down the rapids.. Turn to page 8 if you turn around… I get to choose my own adventure. The voice of my Shepherd guides me but I can choose whether to listen to Him or not, whether to listen to wise counsel, unwise counsel, heart’s desires both beautiful and ugly…
The other thing that is really interesting is the mix of “nonprofit” and “professional”, “faith based” and “secular”. Each one of these places influenced me and equipped me in different ways. I am glad for the mix. I am glad to work with people that share my worldview and with those that don’t. I have much to learn and perhaps something to give as well.
I almost wish that life was a board game and I could put all of the pieces away and start over in a new adventure. In some ways I can. A few years ago I looked into TESOL (teaching ESL training) in downtown Vancouver. It wasn’t possible then but it is now…
Life is not a board game. Some decisions affect us for the rest of our lives for good or for bad. Those pieces cannot be moved. I am glad for that. It humbles me and stabilizes me. Decisions are very important.
I am glad too that my life is not entirely the sum of my decisions, it doesn’t ALL depend on me. I have to tell myself that everyday. I am being looked out for and cared for.
As you make decisions, big or small, may you know the same care and love.