I never thought it was possible to work at a place where I felt calmer at the end of a shift than at the beginning. Every time I enter the building, I bring all the stresses of student life – academic performance, paying bills, finding internships, etc. But somewhere between gently polishing the chancel furnishings with Brillianize and methodically setting 98 chairs to standard, all my troubles dissipate into the tranquil ambiance of our beautiful center. Equally enriching are the meaningful conversations I have every day with the staff and guests at the center. This space attracts those with the minds to explore and seek truth, and I will certainly leave this place with knowledge and friendships of inestimable value.
That isn’t to say that being a docent didn’t come with moments of anxiety – like when my life flashed before my eyes as I lifted the extremely heavy cross of the standard over my head, or when my heart stopped after I found someone taking prom photos lounged atop the grand piano. But each of these moments carried much needed comic relief with my coworkers, and a strengthening of both my mental and physical faculties.
When people ask me why I work at Fish, I stopped telling them that I needed the money, or that sometimes I can study if I finish my work. I finally gave an answer which I feel is more honest – I enjoy it. I explain being a docent at Fish is like taking part in a giant, intricate puzzle. The building itself has hundreds of delicate pieces, each laden with significance and meaning. These physical pieces must be cared for, maneuvered, and arranged just so to create the spiritual atmosphere.
But the work facilitating the social spaces is like a puzzle as well. Each of the diverse events takes careful planning and knowledge of the specific needs of the many cultures and religions who cherish this space. Throughout the week, each of the gatherings must be arranged to complement each other and share resources. It requires a finesse and nuance that only our senior staff can pull off.
I think that the puzzle artwork of William Tunberg next to the Peterson Conference Room is the perfect symbol for the Fish Interfaith Center. Colorful pieces with unique symbolism arranged in a complex and complimentary manor, embodying the truth of unity in diversity. As I move onto the next phase of my life, this is how I will remember the Fish community and its many wisdoms.