Playing volleyball.

For most of my life I have enjoyed the game, seeing in it its own virtues of back-and-forth competition played best by people who enjoy passing the ball around. It is not single’s tennis, which is not a moral judgment, but it is a different game. But beyond the actual pleasures of the game itself, it has become a metaphor for me of what I most like in life.

When people ask me about our work in The Washington Institute, I will often say, “There is a lot of good work to be done.” Simply, there is. We get to do some of it, but so do others. If pressed to say more, I will always explain that there are two words that characterize everything we think and say and do: coherence and collegiality.

By the first I mean this. We are always pressing into the vision that life is to be coherent, that we are to see the world seamlessly. So that faith, vocation and culture is one long argument for the way life is, and ought to be. What we believe about the deepest things in life, shapes how we live life, and that has consequences for life—for flourishing and for not.

By the second I mean this. Most of what we do we do collegially. We like to play volleyball. To pass the ball around. We take honest pleasure in setting others’ up, in giving them the ball, and seeing what they do with it at the net. We don’t have to always be the striker. And so whether it is our work with the Murdock Trust in the Pacific Northwest, the Laity Lodge in Texas, Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, the Mars Corporation all over the world, or Regent College in Vancouver, BC, we really like to work together with other organizations and institutions that we find to be kindred spirits.

Over the last half-year we are finding a new partner to play with, the Praxis Labs—and we love to see them at the net, doing what they do with unusual skill and grace. At home in San Francisco and New York City, their vision spans the country and the world, committed as they are to nurturing a generation of visionary and experienced entrepreneurs who see their vocations in the marketplaces of the world. Each year they choose 12 people/projects in both the for-profit and the non-profit worlds, inviting them into a year-long learning community where Praxis has created an intensive, mentor-driven pedagogy, allowing these 30-somethings to learn from older, more seasoned practitioners. I have been to both of these this year, and have been very impressed.

For the first time they are bringing into being a program for university students, or those just out, calling it the Praxis Academy. It will be this summer, the first week of August. See the link. Because of our deepening relationship with the leadership, we spent a day together today, talking through the vision and pedagogy for the week. What is it? What needs to happen? How should it work? They drove down from NYC this morning, and we sat at the round table in our office, and talked for several hours. About the core of the program. About the days. About the ideas. About the schedule. About the ways we learn. And more.

One of our long friends, Hans Hess, founder of Elevation Burger, and now a part of the Praxis community, brought a few bags of his own great entrepreneurial pleasures for us to eat while we talked. So as we ate his hamburgers and fries, we dreamed dreams too, trying our best to make them workable in the world.

The Praxis Academy– if you are interested, let us know (or even better, write the Praxis Academy itself.)

And yes, it did feel like we had played a good game of volleyball together– there is more to come.

For more on the Praxis Labs, and our relationship with them, see:

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve