Far, far away in the land of pomp and circumstance, hidden in the corner of a little common town was the House of Lack. In this House of Lack, there lived dozens of students from the far reaches of the world but when you enrolled into the House of Lack, this became your world. Your time at school, at work, at rest, with friends and with co-workers all spun around the activities and the mission of the House of Lack. Each student and each worker arrived with their baggage, their funds and their commitment duly inscribed with pen on paper. Each arrived at, served within and departed from the House of Lack with a personal ability to communicate in English, an individual level of faith and a unique set of needs and goals for a healthy and successful life. One day long ago, I too entered the House of Lack with my baggage, my funds and my commitment.
Within a few days, if not a few hours, those who lived in the House of Lack became aware of the paper-thin walls. There was no privacy to be had but there were a lot of secrets. Boundaries could easily be invaded and often were. It was not uncommon for the lights and sounds (and handwritten notes) from an adjacent room to penetrate the one you occupied. As evening hours progressed, the staff left for home and curfew was enforced. The night hours were no less invasive to paper-thin solitude.
On one particular night, actually in the early morning hours, there was an urgent knocking on my door. There were two young girls, barely in their 20’s begging for help. One of their dorm mates was in trouble and had been in trouble for most of the night. Finally realizing the situation was beyond their abilities, the two girls broke the boundaries of curfew in search of help. On the way to the dorm, I stopped at the resident advisors’ door to bring her into the situation. The abrupt awakening caused her to faint. At that time, given the pressure of the moment, her age and my very limited experience as a first responder, I was concerned that she may have been in more serious medical condition. I was acutely aware that I was thrust into a place of leadership and responsibility for two situations simultaneously for which I was ill-equipped.
As a first responder, I did not want to leave the resident advisor. I wanted to send one of the two girls to the kitchen across the hallway to call other staff members for help but instead she would have to go round to the reception area to use the phone. I wanted to send the other young lady to return to the original student in crisis but I needed to evaluate the situation myself. There were so many variables to consider and limited time and resources available to put into action. It was in the early morning hours when all the other residents would be asleep; I did not want to cause more alarm than necessary but action needed to be taken. As it turned out, the resident advisor did not suffer from a medical emergency and the dorm mate in trouble received the care needed. The evening following that early morning event arrived with most none the wiser and with me utterly exhausted physically and emotionally.
Months before when I signed the thin paper of commitment, there was no way to foresee this kind of scenario nor was there a way to foretell the actual cost of commitment. I had not seen the House of Lack before making the commitment or before my much celebrated arrival with my baggage and funds. Reality was far from expectation and the cost was precariously extracted. Only the paper-thin commitment locked me in place, for in the bottom of my heart the commitment was to a Person and not to a place. I stayed put out of obedience, not out of desire.
Those days are all but forgotten, as are the accompanying joys and heartache. What remains is the knowledge that regardless of how honorable our commitment may be, sometimes the cost may take us unawares. What remains as well is the knowledge that regardless of how honorable our commitment may be, sometimes an unhealthy situation needs to be abandoned. Sometimes the cuts from a paper-thin commitment will slice through your faith until all that is left is a shell of the person you once were.
Make your commitments cautiously, with eyes wide open. Meet your commitments wholeheartedly, with fire and purity. But be aware, holding onto a commitment for commitment sake (or personal gain or pride) is suicidal to the one who makes the commitment, creating unnecessary casualties of war from the ranks within.