After lunch yesterday (Thursday), we were joined by one of our Board members — Joseph O’Donnell, MD — for a discussion on sustaining a passion for service. Joe is Senior Advising Dean and Director of Community Programs at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) and Chief of Oncology at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.
He is also the reason ASF’s New Hampshire/Vermont program exists. With the DMS Community Service Committee firmly in place, and more than 80% of DMS students involved in some form of community service, Joe met with Judge Mark Wolf and Lachlan Forrow, M.D., to discuss the prospect of founding an ASF program in New Hampshire and Vermont. The first NH/VT Schweitzer Fellows were selected in March, 1996.
With the guidance of program director Becky Torrey, M. Ed., over 200 Fellows have since made important contributions in a wide range of fields including domestic violence, environmental education, palliative care, immigrant and refugee health, and wilderness medicine.
Yesterday, Joe delivered an engaging talk focused on living “divided no more” (ie, living in a way such that there’s no gap between our internal values and external actions). Citing the work of Parker Palmer and Howard Gardner — who actually studied ASF while forming his theories on leadership — Joe suggested that in order for good work to be sustained, it must have:
1.) Horizontal support (ex. peer support)
2.) Vertical support (ex. mentor support)
3.) Periods of renewal
ASF’s curriculum, both for Fellows and program staff, incorporates all three criteria. But for the dedicated individuals implementing our Fellowship programs, that third point — periods of renewal — may get pushed aside by the immediate, on-the-ground concerns that accompany running such intense community service programs.
That’s why Joe’s talk was such an oasis — it fit beautifully into the third category, while remaining strongly linked to the work our program directors do.
Joe left us with two poems about renewal and the unity of the internal and external, both of which I’ve posted below:
by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.