who, what, when, where, how?

By: ewhite422

Aug 04 2010

Category: Uncategorized

2 Comments


I can still remember my English teacher in junior high demanding that we answer the questions, “who, what, when, where, and how,” for any writing assignment.  She made us recite those words, “who, what, when, where, how” in just that order.  It just doesn’t sound right if you change them up.

I started thinking about those words this morning after reading David Brooks’ editorial, “The Summoned Self,”  in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/opinion/03brooks.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general.  The article deals with two approaches to life, one, which plans everything, and the other, which just lets life happen.  It reminded me of the Forrest Gump movie.  Forrest just seemed to “go with the flow.”

I think both approaches are valid in crafting our life story, and I also believe it makes sense to constantly ask questions in just this order:

Who AM I? 

What do I love to do?

When and where can I be and do what I answered in the first two questions?  And how will I accomplish my goal?

These questions seem easy, but they take a lifetime to answer, because at every stage, from childhood to advanced old age, we’re confronted with new circumstances that trigger the same questions.

Sometimes you can be pretty sure about the answers to who you are and what you love, and then get hung up on the rest.

I love Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak.  He tells the story of his work in answering the first two questions about himself, but he was confused about when, where, and how to engage.  He calls is vocation.  People kept telling him that “the way” would open up.  He kept looking for it.  He prayed for it, but nothing seemed to happen.  He finally spoke with an old Quaker woman, who was highly esteemed in the community for her wisdom.  When she heard his complaint that he still wasn’t sure about his vocation, and that the way did not seem to be opening up, she surprised him when she answered that it had never opened up for her either.

Then she added, “But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect.”

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2 comments on “who, what, when, where, how?”

  1. was her name Foster?


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