On the surface, my coffee date last Friday was with the quintessential Colonial: put together sorority girl, engaged by her studies and forward focused. But simmering below the surface was a thirsty young woman – thirsty for spiritual sustenance, for community, for a forging of her active social life with her yearning for Judaic depth. E. and I enjoyed the good weather on Potbelly’s porch, having coffee as she told me about her experiences in college. And then, she turned the tables and asked me a question.
‘What’s the goal here, Adena?’
The goal? I thought we had been talking about accounting and fraternities when I suddenly realized we were discussing the essence of my professional life and more relevant for that moment, how my goals can help her own.
E. caught me in the midst of a weary, wonderful Welcome Week. We had record numbers of students – eating bagels, signing-up for newsletters, CONNECTING! After four years of tweaking systems and learning hard lessons, something felt settled and beautiful in the air; programs were planned without me needing to jump into every detail, conversations happened without me needing to make the introductions.
I realized, in answering E.’s question, that after four years on campus, a piece of my goal had been reached: I had been worked out of the equation.
We all live and thrive on ego, needing to feel needed and wanting to feel valued. But as a Hillel professional, if you graduate and still need me to help you in creating your Jewish identity, I have failed. The goal is that for 4 years, E. gets love, support, and the tools she needs to quench her own Jewish thirst. The goal is that E. writes me an email in 5 years to tell me how beautiful the Shabbat table she made was, how inspired she just was by the Jewish conversation she began.
On the dawn of a new year, what does success look like for you? And where can you (and your ego) take a step back to let someone else’s journey ensue?