In my previous posts I mentioned about my applying to, and ultimately being accepted, to serve on team with CPT’s Palestine team. What you don’t know is what’s been happening behind the scenes that’s caused me to be silent these last weeks.
Let me briefly retrace a few things, for any new comers.
In the winter of 2016, I went to Israel on a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). The aim was for me to learn more about what the team does on the ground in an effort to determine if I was interested in training with, and ultimately, joining. About halfway through that delegation, I knew that I wanted to apply to the training class that would take place in Chicago in 2017. So I did, and I was accepted, and spent last August in CPT training. At the end of the month, I was offered a conditional acceptance. The terms were that, before I could be full and active member, I had to complete a 30 day long internship on one of the teams. This was, in large part, due to the fact that not only was I still struggling with the trauma I had experienced in Palestine but also because of major life changes (new job, school, wedding, buying a house, and coming off my anti-depressant medications). At that time, and still now, I feel that the trainers’ assessment and decision were the BEST for me. I’m grateful for the time down, because in this year I’ve healed and become a whole person again.
As I was hired on for this new job, I spoke to my hiring manager about taking a leave of absence to be with CPT. After I was taken on, I began speaking with my direct manager, sometime around January, about my taking a personal leave. I told him that I wasn’t sure of dates because I had to first go through the application and interview processes – and there were no guarantees. He said that was fine, and asked me to keep him updated. I began the application process roughly a month later in February, was interviewed several times throughout the month of April, and was finally accepted onto team on May 11th. Per my manager’s request, I kept him updated on everything that was occurring along the way and, when I finally got the go-ahead, contacted HR to begin the personal leave process.
For a month (5/24 – 6/20) I heard basically nothing from HR about what was happening with my request, other than the fact that it had been received. I stayed in pretty close contact with my manager, and he advised me that everything was looking good. After two weeks of not having a response from anyone, I followed up with my manager again. He told me that everything should be all set for me to go, that there was no real reason for it to be denied, and even that a new hire was coming on to C-shift so my absence wouldn’t really affect the team. Given these assurances – I went ahead and confirmed my commitment to the Israel team, bought my plane ticket and paid the required team fees. All in all, it amounted to $2,400 – all non-refundable.
On June 20th, I received an email that denied my request – I’m sure you can understand what an enormous shock that was for me. I figured that HR misunderstood and I attempted to clarify – that this was a leave for religious purposes – but ended up with the same result; a vague denial that had no real reason. In an act of panic, I contacted a lawyer to see what options I had, but they told me that – in the end – it simply wasn’t worth the fight. So, I was left in a lose-lose situation. I had made a commitment to be on team, and sunk a bunch of money into it that I wouldn’t get back and I knew that if I backed out of my commitment that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the terms of my conditional acceptance, and my future with the CPT would probably end there – 3 years of hard work down the crapper. The other option was to keep my commitment and leave a job that I really love and that paid me RIDICULOUSLY well.
This choice wasn’t simple – and not just for the reasons of non-refundable money, and livelihood. The choice had huge personal implications; it involved questions regarding my identity, the personal journey that I’ve undertaken over the course of five years, my own morals and ethics, and – most importantly – the foundations my faith. I felt backed into a corner where I was being forced to make a decision between my job and my faith.
I spent 3 weeks praying, journalling, and crying … A LOT. So many worries weighed on me; losing my house, my car, not being able to pay my bills, not being able to pay for school. As I prayed, I thought about my something Dan Berrigan said, “We are only given enough light to see one step ahead. ONE.” I knew, in my heart, the right thing to do but I was terrified of doing it – I wish Dan would have said something about how HARD taking that first step is. Thanks Dan. 🙂
As I prayed, I reflected upon the life of a dear friend of mine. I thought about all the times that he had to make the choice between peace work and his own comfort, the last one ultimately separating him from his religious community that he’d spent his life in. He gave up everything to work for justice. So did Dorothy Day. And Thomas Merton. And Gandhi and MLK. I argued with myself that I … I am not these people, but the little voice in my head said that they became these people because they knew how important peace work is, and consistently chose it above everything else. Everyone has to take the first step forward.
Finally, after three weeks of discernment…. I made my first step; I put in my two week’s notice. At the end of the day, I have to live with who I am. If I broke my commitment to Palestine, I would be turning my back on not only the Palestinians, but also my faith and I would lose the ability to look into the mirror every day and respect the person I saw looking back. No job – no matter how much I love it – is worth the loss of my identity, the loss of my morals and ethics, the loss of my self-respect or the denial of my faith.
I have faith… faith that God will provide. Faith that this is the first step on a life that will take me where I’ve never dreamed possible. Faith that this time… THIS TIME…I get to choose what job that’s in line with my beliefs.
I choose full time peace work.