When I returned home to New York from Central America after eight years (beginning in the mid-1980s), I wondered what I would do with myself. I’d stayed much longer than the six months I’d banked on, and my return home was more like a return to a different country than the one I’d left.
I had been drawn to Central America, which was then in a long season of civil war, by what I’d perceived as an authentic expression of church. In the midst of widespread violence and rebellion, people of faith boldly stood for justice, and with enormous courage called oppressors to task. They stood beside—and even in front of, for protection—the people who were most impacted by the reign of injustice and oppression.
Those were dynamic years, filled with purpose and conviction. When I finally came home, I was drained. My parents, who were a great blessing to me, took me in while I sought to reorient myself and consider my next steps. It was like starting over, like beginning not only a new chapter, but a new life.
What is important to me now? I asked myself. I can remember when the answer clicked. I’d begun to meet with a spiritual director and was walking around the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City in advance of an appointment. The glue that had held together the many permutations of my life to that point were three: faith, the written word, and a global human connection. I wasn’t interested in selling stories but in telling stories of our shared humanity—shared across geographical, religious, racial, economic—all manner of boundaries.
Many years later, I find myself—in middle age—at a similar crossroads. I return to that time, to that reflection, which yielded such wonderful fruit in the intervening years. And I ask that question again: What is important to me now? And what is the authentic expression of lived faith that calls to me today?