Passing the Power

posted Sep 26, 2012, 7:18 AM by Linnea Logas
This last week I started my program at Adler Graduate School for my MA in psychotherapy. As I sat with the other students, we spoke to one another about professionalism and vocation. Professionalism broken down in Latin means "pro" or for and "fess" to speak. Thus professionalism is about speaking for someone or some group. Likewise, vocation comes from the Latin word "vocatio", a call or a summon. Asking someone what their profession is and what their vocation is, is really asking who that individual is called to speak on behalf of. My first response to this question was that I am called to speak on behalf of those who do not have voices, or to listen to those who are not listened to. Another woman in my class said that she is called to speak to women and men in her own, privileged social group. She questioned the virtue of this calling, and as a group we discussed the benefit she could have on our world. In particular we decided, when those who are in a position of power are at peace with themselves, they are more likely to reach out to the people around them. This might mean they are more likely to leave a tip with a waiter who is struggling to pay his bills, or are more understanding when their order is taken down wrong; it might mean that they joke with the disabled woman working as a cashier at Target, or sympathize with the elderly gentleman restocking shelves at their grocery store. It occurs to me now that despite the fact that I work at a restaurant, rely on the tips I get, and don't have as much say in society as my husband, I am still in a position to be called to speak on behalf of others. And this in itself is a position of power that many people won't experience. The cooks at my restaurant will likely never stop working at a restaurant. This in itself is nothing bad, since we still need those restaurant workers, but they work hard hours for little pay that won't ensure their retirement or their children's futures. They will never own their own house or go get their bachelors degrees, much less their masters degrees. The work we do at Read to Feed the Mind is not simply about helping children in need. What we do is speak on behalf of a group of people who currently don't have the privilege or the power to speak on behalf of themselves. Not only that, but we are in fact arming these children with what they need in order to speak for themselves as they grow older. We are giving them the tools they need to get that bachelors degree, to work towards something more stable than a restaurant job or a cashier job. We are giving them the tools they need to find their own professions and their own vocations. In essence, we are passing on our power to the future generations. And that's a virtue worth smiling about.