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day 69: decide what to be, and go be it

April 11, 2011

Late in the evening on Day 69, my cell phone buzzed.  My boys had finally fallen asleep after an hour of “we’re not tiiiired” and “we’re thiiiiiirsty,” and I was feeling the effects of my nonstop weekend.  I had just settled in, zombie-like, to a Netflixed episode of Weeds.  Frankly, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

I almost let the call go to voice mail.  I’m so glad I didn’t.

“Aunt Anne?” it was my 18 year-old niece T, barely able to contain some exciting news.  “I have something to tell you… I just found out I got in to AmeriCorps!  I’m going to Denver in the fall!”

I could just imagine T on the other end of the phone line, across the country, with her brown eyes shining and her lit-up smile.  I don’t remember what I said to her on last night’s phone call, other than exactly what I felt: “I am so proud of you.”

I was immediately cast back to last summer, when T spent a week with us.  One day she and I went shopping and out to lunch together, and started talking about her plans for the future.  While I don’t think she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life (what seventeen year old does?), she was clear about wanting to serve others.  Looking her in the eyes over lunch, I remember thinking, “Once she decides what she wants, she’ll do what it takes to get it.”

Sure enough, after returning home, T began work as a volunteer for a teen dating violence hotline.  She also applied to AmeriCorps, a service organization whose members spend a year addressing critical community needs across the nation.  She began steering in the direction of who she wanted to become, and she has stayed the course.

T is one step closer to her goals, having been selected for this year-long adventure in service.  I can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes her, and I want T to be reminded of the others who have forged a path before her.  For that reason, Day 69’s gift was this book, Lighting the Way by Karenna Gore Schiff, which was given to me by my parents years ago.

It is a collective biography of nine trailblazing American women who fought for social justice and enacted social change.  I want T to know that it is within her power to do the same.

After I got off the phone with her last night, I kept thinking of a lyric from the Avett Brothers’ song Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full of Promise: 

“Decide what to be, and go be it.”

I think, sometimes, it might just be that simple.

Today, I hope you will be whatever you decide to be.  Thank you, so much, for showing up.

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