A Place to Belong
Jen Bookhout, Director of Communications and Upper School Rhetoric Teacher
I once read in a book that a Mayan tribe in Guatemala asks, “Where do you belong?” rather than our accustomed, “Where are you from?” I love this tradition. It gets at the heart of relationship immediately, and isn’t relationship our ultimate purpose? Beyond that, this greeting asks us the question we rarely dare ask ourselves. Where do we belong?
For many years, I couldn’t shake the impression that I was going about life all wrong, missing all the milestones, making a real embarrassment of myself. It seemed as though I was behind all my peers on life’s timeline. It took me eight years to complete a four-year degree, another two to complete a master’s degree with a cohort younger than myself. With each passing year, more of my friends were getting married, having children, buying houses. At 28, I still lived above my parents’ garage, and it was just me — well, me, and the two cats. My heart longed to know if God did, indeed, have a plan for me, if I was wasting my time and money on education I wouldn’t utilize.
How foolish I was to give way to that raging beast, Comparison. Of course, God had a plan; my waiting would not be in vain. During my two-year tenure as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Wichita State, He sent me a student from Classical School of Wichita. Prior to my encounter with her, I had never heard of CSW. Suddenly, I was fascinated. What was classical education? How does one get involved?
As May of 2016 drew nearer, my anxiety about finding a job soared. I knew I needed to be looking, but I felt directionless. Did I look for communications positions? Teaching positions? Did I look to return to the newspaper industry? It was all so unclear and daunting.
On the off chance CSW might be hiring, I checked the website. And because we serve a brilliant, creative and comical God, there were, indeed, positions available. CSW needed a Director of Communications and Upper School instructors. I completed any application available and arranged to drop them off with Mr. Dyson. I thought we would talk for a couple of minutes, I’d leave my applications and hear back later.
The next thing I knew, I was in the conference room with Mr. Dyson and Mr. Ortego for an hour-long interview. The interview was so unexpected, I internally thanked God I’d had enough foresight to wear interview attire and makeup — a social norm I am known for eschewing.
The following week I sat in on an Upper School Rhetoric class, and a week later I spent an hour with Mrs. Shanfelt and Mrs. Kice. In a rapid turn of events, I had a job; I hadn’t even dawned my cap and gown yet.
What I thought I signed up for and what I encountered were two completely different experiences. I thought I signed a contract for a job — a part-time teaching position and part-time communications position; I would type up newsletters and teach kids to write well. Instead, I got a community, a purpose and a lifestyle — God placed me where I belong.
You see, it isn’t “nerdy” to love to learn at CSW. Christ is openly discussed and called upon in the hallways. Marriage and family are sacred institutions we must nurture and strengthen. These ideas in themselves are not unusual. What is, however, unusual is that it’s not all talk — I see it lived out every day.
I see strong men of God loving their wives, holding doors open for women and leaning on Christ for strength in leadership. I see families supporting one another in the hallways. I see Upper School students hugging, high-fiving and praying with Grammar School students on tough days.
CSW cultivates a love for Christ, a love for relationship and a love for learning. I could not have dreamed up this job; I could not have imagined this overwhelming sense of purpose. For though I felt discouraged along the way, as though I did not know where I belonged, God always knew.