Identity

What is our identity, whom do you identify with? For instance in years gone by people would identify with a cultural community. When my great grandfather died the first thing the obituary named was his Irish heritage, the fraternal organizations he frequented. My maternal grandparents were most proud of being Odd Fellows. My paternal grandmother would say she was proudest of being a Newfoundlander. My paternal grandfather wanted you to know he was a carpenter. How do you identify yourself?

Curiously there are still people who connect to some narrative from genealogical research. “My people came over on the (ship’s name) and fought in the battle of the (you fill in the blank).” I can’t get my head around how this story, from hundreds of years ago, connects us to an identity. But there are many people who do find calling themselves Scots or Welsh based on knowing a little about their bloodline a helpful piece of self-identity.

I am a mutt, I have Irish and British bloodlines on my father’s side and British and Scottish bloodlines on my mother’s side. Personally I have no sense of identity that relates to my ethnic heritage. I have no strong feelings about any organization, excepting the church. In my lifetime I have participated in political parties (two), hockey teams (many), and too many non-profits to mention. I am a proud Canadian, a proud Nova Scotian and a proud Haligonian, but I can’t say I feel deeply committed to any of these. If I moved to New Zealand, if I moved to Newfoundland, if I moved to Whitehorse, I don’t think I would have trouble transferring my commitment away where I am now to these other locations.

So where does my identity come from? Corny as this may sound I believe Christian is how I would self-identify. I believe I am called to serve, it is service to others in the model of Jesus that helps me make sense of who I am. I get up in the morning and I think, “How can I help others?” I’ll be honest, I have limited skills so what I can do to help is not extensive. And I like to use my creativity to be of service, meaning I don’t like to do the easy, straightforward way. I like to find solutions that others might not consider, even solutions that have not worked for me, solutions that are not part of my skill-set. But if they feel like a fit for the other I will suggest it.

I love being with people and offering something that may make their day a better day. It is what fuels me and where I draw my sense of identity. It confuses people because I don’t do these things because of loyalty to a person or a group, I do them because I can and I find joy in service. I have met people who were recipients of my service who see me later and wonder where I have gone. I tell them I would serve anyone, anytime, depending on where I can be most effective. If I am here, I serve here, if I move there, I serve there. It is the service that defines me, now the ones I am with or where I am when I serve.

I guess loyalty in a very narrow sense is not my thing. Service is my thing. I find borders around who “we” are hard to understand and abide by. If I can, I will.

Who are you? It’s a good question to ask.