By Shannon McClain, Columnist

The ongoing Food Symposium at Pacific Lutheran University, which began Wednesday and runs through this Saturday, offers more than just an education on food democracy. The philosophy department, Center for Community Engagement and Service and Trinity Lutheran Church organized the symposium.   The topic is food democracy, and it will address local and global ways to solve the problem of hunger and the lack of access to food in some parts of the world.

It began with a keynote address by Professor Thomas Pogge, the director of the Global Justice Program and a Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University. A series of panel discussions with faculty members and members of the community followed the address.  Students presented posters, held food demonstrations and participated in a community meal and a day of service.

As I looked at the schedule for this event, I began to wonder what PLU’s reasons were for putting on events such as this one.Of course, it is a college campus, and events like these could be purely for educational purposes. In some ways, they are intended to educate and inform on a particular issue in our world.

Then my gaze drifts to the day of volunteer service. This is a different kind of education than keynote addresses and panel discussions. This volunteer work is education through experiencing the reality of the issue.   I used to volunteer at a shelter for women who had experienced abuse, both physical and emotional, at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends or other intimate partners.

No matter what facts and information I gathered about domestic violence, none of it compared to the reality of watching these women try to move forward and create a new life for themselves.  Seeing the issue firsthand through volunteer work inspires awe and can evoke passion. For some, this passion may even lead to a vocation.

Vocation almost becomes synonymous with passion at PLU. It is advocated as an important piece of the school’s curriculum and atmosphere.
It is the ending question of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day:” “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The significance for PLU and for us as students is that we are at the gateway of our future. We are trying to figure out what we want to do with our lives.

Junior Liandra Daniels said vocation is “a path others follow that brings them to conclude who they are and want to become.”

It is PLU’s hope that we will do something that matters to us, that we are passionate about and that is our vocation. PLU provides us with events like the Food Symposium not only so that we will be educated on these different issues, but so that we will also discover a passion for something from an event. This passion could lead us to find more than a suitable career — it could be a way for us to make a difference in the world.

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