I visited yesterday again with the Secretary General of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, Monsignor Guy-Réal Thivierge. Not really paying attention to the dates before I left, when I saw him he couldn't believe my time here was already up. In fact, it had been one full month since I had seen him the first time. Though at the beginning I thought my time here would not end, it has come time to say goodbye. I have thought a lot on the work I've done and reflected quite a bit on the time I've had here. In being here I have become sure of 3 things. A) The work being done in this office is so very important, and unique. B) I am not a good international travel by myself. Put me in a group of friends, or even peers, and I would have a blast, but alone I am not adventurous enough to enjoy a foreign city. Lastly C) I have realized what it means to have a JOB.
And so we begin with A. The work that Fr. Desbois is doing, along with his team here in Paris is very unique, but at the same time very important. Fr. Desbois began this work on a personal journey in about 2000. He told me in an interview for the project I am working on that when he went first about 9 years ago he wrote in a diary that the work would require not more than two return trips. However, here he is 9 years later and over 20 trips have occurred, with 2 more planned for this year. He estimates he has about five or six years left for this project. In that time he wants to investigate all areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia where there was German activity during the Holocaust. He has so little time to do this because the witnesses, the heart of the project, are already in their 80's and are disappearing quickly. With every witness that dies without telling their story, a mass grave may never be uncovered, and that story is gone forever. I was on the phone in Fr. Desbois' office one night and I was sitting at his desk and looked down and right in the center of his desk was the Starfish poem. It tells the story of a man walking on the beach one morning and in the distance he sees a young man who appears to be dancing. When he gets closer the man sees that the young man is bending down to pick up starfish and throw them back into the ocean. The man stops and asks the young man what he is doing. The boy explains that if the starfish do not have the protection of the ocean they could die in the morning sun. The old man looks up the beach and sees thousands of starfish. He asks the young man why he would bother when there are so many, he couldn't possibly make a difference. The young man looks up at the old man, then reaches down to pick up a starfish and throws it out into the ocean. "I made a difference to that one," says the young man. This is a well known story in Christian circles, and I had heard it many times before, but it really hit me when I saw it on Fr. Desbois' desk. This man has awards, medals, and statues from many prestigious organizations around the world, but yet front and center on his desk is this story. It really explains how concerned Fr. Desbois is for each individual who he has met and will meet. He wants to uncover all of the stories, and realizes he probably won't, but he realizes each one he hears is one more that may have never been told. It is incredibly inspirational.
B) Anyone who I talked to before leaving knows I was very excited to come to Paris. I was, I couldn't wait. But, the combination of being by myself, in a foreign city, not working with anyone my age, made the journey very difficult. Most of my sophomore year was spent going from one thing to the next, sometimes not even stopping in between to catch my breath. In fact I would often find myself doing two or three things at once. Then to come here, and be bored quite a bit was a very abrupt change of lifestyle. I realize now how much I enjoy a fast paced environment. But, nonetheless I discovered an immense appreciation for my French speaking skills, and my ability to live on my own. While I may not have enjoyed it, I did survive being on my own, and I am quite proud of that. My French was surprisingly sufficient. I was often complemented on my speaking skills, even though I have not spoken it for 3 years. Sometimes I found myself in awe that I was carrying on a completely fluent conversation in French. I remember telling some friends of mine that I was nervous I would not be able to keep up, but surprisingly I kept up quite well. And the other think I learned was how fun this place would be with friends. There were so many groups of people my age from all over the world everywhere I went. I found myself thinking about how fun it would be to explore the city with my friends. And so, I know that one day I will come back, after graduation, honeymoon, family vacation, I don't know what for, but I will come back, and I have made connections here that I will be able to see when I come back.
C) Lastly, this was my first real full-time office job. While it was really an internship I got a real sense of what it is like to have my own desk, to have a time to be at work, a lunch hour, and a time to leave work. And, because of this I know that I do not want to work in an office job where I am bound to a desk all day. I need to be able to get up, do things, and not be confined to a cubicle, because as vast as the internet is, you can only do so much in eight hours. Some people can do it, I cannot. And so, this job has certainly exposed me to an office job, and I have concluded it is not where I belong.
These may or may not be my final words for the blog. They will however be my final words from Paris. The taxi comes at 7 AM tomorrow morning to bring me to the airport for a 9:30 flight. I will land in Boston at 2:30 PM and I can't wait. But, I must say, this has been an experience I will not soon forget, I am incredibly grateful to all who helped make it happen. I am grateful to those who supported me and helped me prepare. The CCJU, the Study Abroad office, many others at Sacred Heart, definitely my parents, and many others helped me along the way. Thank You! I will certainly be enjoying the weekend as Monday I start my new job at SHU, and before we know it the semester will be here, and life as Sam Dowd will be back to normal! Thank you for following along and I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience it has been a pleasure doing it!