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I blog about my Catholic faith, my prayer life, good books and good movies.

The Joy of Being a Generalist

Abigail Benjamin

Nine days before Christmas, I volunteered myself to receive 4 hours of intensive tutoring on environmentalism in one week. Tonight, a professional Geologist is putting me through my paces on the scientific background of water pollution in my community. Tomorrow, my parish priest is giving me a second 2 hour installment of the spiritual underpinnings of the environmental crisis.

I'm the Mother of six kids who range from ages 12 to 1. It's not like my Advent "To Do List" was short by any measure. This morning as I was freaking out to God, "Exactly how is this timing thing going to work?", I was reminded of the joy of being a generalist.

In this age of specialization, there is joy in being a generalist. I have the joy of immersing myself in a new field.  I get the opportunity to self-educate. I get to ask the common sense questions and discover the interconnectedness of things. I'm constantly amazed at the advanced opportunities to learn that are right in front of me, "ripe for the picking."

I live in West Virginia. We are a poor State, with a lack of a large Middle Class. Many of the classmates who sat next to me in my High School Honors Classes left the State to pursue better job opportunities. That "brain drain" has created a power imbalance that is worse than the political economies of nearby Maryland or Pennsylvania. There are a few wealthy people who are connected to the coal companies. There are a few environmental activists. There is a huge part of the population of the State who lack not only affirming educational backgrounds from our State's public schools, but also lack time. Did you know that my community's average wait time inside the lobby of our Welfare Office is over 2 1/2 hours? My State has a comparatively small part of the population with the time and ability to focus on problems outside the immediate nexus of our family's daily needs. 

West Virginia is the starting place of 44 rivers. We are one of the leading States in energy production. In the past 15 years, we have had major State Leaders arrested for corruption. We also live in an environmental climate that is so one sided that my husband recently found out that it was illegal for him to rent solar panels for our house.

As a Sanguine, my answer to all of this drama is to throw a party. In four weeks, I'm taking an environmental film called "Elk Water Blues" to my hometown in Central West Virginia. I'm helping to host a WV Clean Water Conference on January 19, 2016.

I'm amazed a people's generosity of spirit. I'm throwing a party for our environment and people are coming. We've already reserved 50% of the 250 tickets we have available for this event. Even more incredible, there is already real networking and intra-departmental dialogue that is happening behind the scenes. All of this impact came from my decision to attend one movie at the American Conservation Film Festival two months ago!

My urge to everyone during this busy Holiday Season is to use this upcoming time of rest! Go see a movie! Look up a classmate you haven't heard from forever on Facebook. Be brave. Call up someone who you admire and say "Can you answer some of my questions for me?" 

Generalists are needed! The world needs more adults who voluntarily give themselves extra homework assignments. My life is so much richer for taking crazy intellectual risks. Christ is waiting to be born inside all of us!

Happy Advent!