Please welcome today’s guest writer, Olivia Holesinger. Olivia graduated from Calvin in 2017 where she studied social work. She now lives in Madison, WI where she teaches at a start-up school and works with a hospice center. Winning at her weekly bingo tournament has become a new passion.
In my brother’s childhood room, on the back of his wooden door, there always hung a large poster of a wolf’s face. It was one of those images that is made up of so many other tiny, intricate images. I haven’t thought about that poster in ages—it’s something that I would never hang myself and it had no true meaning for me at the time. I only really saw it when Tyler allowed me to be in his room—in cahoots over something with the door closed or maybe stealing time away at his envied desk and laptop.
The wolf poster had no real meaning to me in the moment, possibly like so many of the little pieces of this year. But now, I’m finding myself stepping back, scrambling to look over everything that has happened over the course of my year of service. I’ve tried to steal away moments to be reflective—I became anxious and didn’t want to be bothered with another ending so I move onto something else, instead. But as I was thinking the other day, I sat with and thought of the strength of “connectedness” that I value so highly.
I spout off about its importance and how people should esteem relationality. I point out how needed it is in society—that we belong to one another. And here, in this critical year of service, I wrote off all of that. I decided to write the narrative of this year as something unimportant—more of a reject year. Katie (our program director) asked us to think of why we were brought to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, but I am still so unsure. I have felt like I took up space or was the problem Mercy Worker. I have felt like I have done a disservice to my youth, co-workers, and housemates as I floundered about this year and felt so unlike myself. I tried to do much of this year on my own in a scary stab at self punishment for not having a specific life plan at the age of twenty-two.
While thinking on this, my mind brought me back to the wolf. It was just a wolf—a full image in focus. But, upon stepping closer you could see the thousands of tiny images—all complete and able to stand alone—but gathered together by someone with a greater vision to create the image of the wolf. And I realized that I had forgotten that I, too, was the wolf. God made me into a person. But, in His goodness and omniscience, He chose not to make me one solid image. Instead, He chose to gather an impossible number of people, places, and experiences that work together in a surreal way to build up something much larger and unforeseen.
Just as in the wolf, some images are the blackest of blacks and others bright white. I’ve been trying to detach from the darkness: the points I feel I failed, times of shame, times of fear. But the dark points are needed, too. And, in the end, you step back and don’t focus singularly on those times of failure, shame, and fear. Instead, you notice how they connect and weave an image of beauty alongside all the other points. Connectedness. Beauty.
This year has been… something. I don’t have the words for it yet and I still think of it strangely. Everyone I talk to says that it’s challenging hard work. I haven’t felt that. Well, maybe I haven’t let myself accept that it’s a hard job—maybe I’ve been suppressing it all and pretending that this is all very normal and should come naturally and then felt like a failure because it truly did not come naturally to me. I’m being reminded that I am not always the wolf. Instead, I am very often the smaller picture that makes up a piece of someone else’s wolf. And that is a wondrous thing.
May we all acknowledge that we are important: we are a wolf. But may we all also acknowledge that we are supporting roles: one of those tiny pictures that connects and weaves together to build up someone else’s completeness.