Someone’s instincts go a long way– at least it seems that way to me.

I remember sitting with Kate Fowler Harris in a Thai restaurant in Falls Church more than ten years ago, and listening to what she was thinking, and the way she was thinking. “Seamless” was the word that best captured what I was hearing.

She thought seamlessly. Only just out of the University of Colorado, doing a year in Washington in The Falls Church Fellows Program, she was taking a course from me that semester. I had watched her in class, but hadn’t really gotten to know her well until that day over lunch.

The more I heard, the more I was intrigued. In a way that is unusual for someone so young, she seemed able to see through the meaning of ideas, to understand them in their complexity, and to make sense in a remarkably seamless way. I suppose I was hearing her in her own unique way hunger after things that mattered very much to me, i.e. “But is it true? Is it true to the way the world really is?”

Over the next years I watched her come into her own, working with some of my friends on Capitol Hill in positions that required unusual savvy, innocent as a dove, wise as a serpent kind of ways. She quickly figured out how things worked, but wasn’t cynical about it; she used her position and its power for good.

Along the way she married Joel, someone who was equal to her in his own wonderfully different way. And they began to have babies, and then went on to Oxford to study for a while, returning to Washington and work. During the next year she began helping us at The Washington Institute, first writing and then thinking things through, and finally taking on administrative leadership for all that we are and do.

And it is her instincts that I still see at work. I trust her because I trust her instincts. Over time she only deepens her skills of heart and mind to think and live seamlessly.

Now a wider world is seeing that too. Tomorrow her first book is coming out, and we all should notice! Take and read, as one very good man heard many years ago. You can Google around, and if you do, make sure you find her piece on our website and on the Q website, “Motherhood As Vocation.” That was her first foray into the deeper reflection her new book represents, about the meaning of motherhood. And if you want to see and hear, then find Q’s online presentation of her talk this past fall on the same subject.

At the heart of things, she is still seeing seamlessly. Not perfectly, but seamlessly. Integral to her vision of vocation is a serious taking account of the wounds of one’s soul, the hurts and sorrows that make us “us”– painful, and a painfully true part of who we are and why we do what we do. But that is only part of her story, as important as that is. Her thinking is comprehensive and coherent, and she is a gifted communicator, even a compelling communicator. I could not be more excited about the unfolding of Kate’s own vocation, as her vision is finding its way into the wider world.


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.

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