Purpose1As I prepare – both mentally and otherwise – to embark upon another professional journey this fall, I have often questioned the paths I have chosen and those that have chosen me. Lately, I have asked if I am sure that this path is for ME? Why THIS degree? Why THIS school? Why another 3-4 years? But after spending the holiday weekend at home with my family, I am reminded of why the work I do professionally is so important to me; it is so much more than work, it is my life. It is literally a matter of life and death – for those who I have known my entire life and for those who will grow up in the community that I call home.

This past weekend as I looked around I was reminded of the vastness of my family. I have friends whose parents and grandparents have known college campuses as far back as they can remember. And there are others who are from lines of prominent preachers and pastors, school administrators, political leaders and the like. My family represents a vastness somewhere in between: those who have traveled the world, earned PhDs and are administrative leaders … but also those who have barely left our small town, those who have never flown on a plane and those who cannot imagine a life other than that of which they presently know.

Much of the work I am committed to is for the latter. And although I don’t foresee moving back to my small town any time in my near or distant future 🙂 I am not naïve enough to think that my hometown does not parallel many others across the country: small towns of people who lack access to affordable and quality care; small towns where HIV testing is a foreign concept; small towns where sex and drugs become recreational activities, but these challenges are not addressed in the larger arenas; small towns where people think about “making it out.” The work I do is my commitment to my hometown and those like it across the U.S. And my visits home are not only special and sacred time with my family, but reminders to remain grounded, stay committed to community work and to never forget why my career field is about more than top dollar research grants, numerous publications or the latest replicated intervention … it is a matter of life and death – literally – for so many whom I love.