Moving Home

Dear LMU,

I arrived here in Atlanta some years ago full of the idealism of a newly returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Africa and grounded in the discerning hopefulness that the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in France imbued in me. Atlanta would be just the place to jump into a second round of graduate work with both feet, while keeping my dreams aloft just minutes from the “World’s Busiest Airport” should I ever want or need to leave. I calculated that Atlanta could keep me entertained and enriched. After all, this city has a rich pre- and post-Civil War history, especially as a backdrop for the work of Civil Rights icons such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman John Lewis and Ambassador Andrew Young. 

Weekdays were filled with analyses and papers. Weekends included reflection at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, treks to the World of Coca Cola, forays to peanut farms and pecan orchards, jaunts to retrace the childhood of Flannery O’Connor — procrastination masquerading as cultural enrichment. Certainly I did not anticipate that my years here would turn into decades or evolve into consulting on public health initiatives with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or even lead me to the local Jesuit parish and its ministry of resettling refugees. 

I began graduate studies with a vague notion of continuing to live a life of honing and offering my gifts as a person for others. But I did not necessarily set out as a social scientist knowing that I would teach or practice in public health. I could scarcely have imagined the scenario I’ve experienced this year. I’ve worked with other specialists to address a social issue — COVID-19 — that would both keep me and everyone I know grounded here but also unite us with brothers and sisters across the globe, whether over shared suffering or in communion through streamed celebrations and liturgies.

From small villages to big cities, I have called several places my home. Some places have nice weather; some have beautiful topographical features; some have rich history; some have memorable food. All places have people worth encountering and a moment in time in which to choose to be present. I am no longer concerned about where I should be or how long I might stay here; my focus has shifted to being where I am.