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Students spend weekend discovering how they are Meant to Live

By Katherine Hedland Hansen '88


Scott Wyatt was a successful Seattle attorney with a happy family, but something was missing. He didn’t know what his passion and his sense of purpose were.

It was during a trip to the former Soviet Union that he first had an idea that would become his life’s work. Wyatt was struck by the many similarities between nations and ethnicities, rather than the differences.

He came up with the idea of a “companion flag” that would fly along with national flags throughout the world as a symbol of all that human beings have in common, such as concern for loved ones and a desire for health and knowledge.

“Sometimes ideas just stick with you,” Wyatt told an audience of students at the Meant to Live conference, designed to help students find purpose in their lives. “I had a revelation that if I was about to die and I had not at least tried to start this, I would consider my life a failure.”

From left, Dan Donohoue '05, Kate Boettcher '07 and Mary Jo Marquardt '05, perform with Peter Mayer at the closing concert after taking part in a guitar clinic with him earlier in the day.

Twelve years after his first thoughts about it, Wyatt closed his law practice and formed Companion Flag Support International.

“I’ve never looked back,” he said. The flag he designed now flies at schools from Kenya to Uzbekistan and China. After his talk, two students approached him hoping to fly the flag on campus and in Armenia.

Wyatt and other dynamic speakers told their stories to hundreds of students throughout the conference, urging them to find their true purpose.

“Listen to that voice inside you,” Wyatt said.

Students made a rapt audience at a series of panels, trying to heed that voice. Meant to Live was a student-run event designed to encourage students to live a life of passion, purposeful conviction and courageous action to accomplish something truly good.

“We want this to be a time of inspiration,” said Laura Chrissis ’06, student coordinator for Meant to Live, which ran from Nov. 5-7.

The program was part of Wild Hope, a five-year project through a grant from the Lilly Endowment to help colleges plan programming around vocation, helping students find their calling or purpose in life. Meant to Live planners wanted speakers to help students see beyond college and think about more than just careers.

“There is something bigger out there – making a contribution to society,” said Joel Zylstra ’05, a Meant to Live organizer who is also ASPLU president.

Students, faculty – and even the panelists themselves were impressed by Meant to Live.

“When I was a student, I had about eight dreams at once, and I never had an event like this,” said Lars Clausen, the teacher and pastor who has unicycled through the country. “If I wasn’t speaking here, I’d be signing up to attend.”

Clausen’s first trip to PLU impressed him so much he said he hopes to send his 8- and 10-year-old children here.

Clausen, who has two Guinness World Records to his name, has lived a life of adventure and growth. Among other things, he has attended the Air Force Academy and five different colleges. He has been an engineer, a campus pastor and a teacher. Today he teaches in Holden Village, the secluded Lutheran retreat in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

He always enjoyed recreational unicycling, but he was compelled to take it to a new level, taking a long trip to raise money for the Inupiat Eskimos he has served as a pastor in rural Alaska. His family supported him as he sold their house, left his job and prepared for the ride of his life – a one-wheeled trip through every state.

He rode through all 50 states, setting his first record. His second was riding 202 miles in 24 hours. Last summer, he spent 42 days riding from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Tijuana, Mexico.

He had moments when he doubted his decision, wondering about the financial straits he was putting his family in, but he knew it was something he was destined to do. His family supports him and accompanies him on his rides in an old motor home.

Clausen wrote a book about his first trip, “One Wheel, Many Spokes.”

It didn’t sell well, which was a disappointment and also a lesson.

“Your and my failures are some of the most important things we have in our lives,” he said.

He likes unicycling because he sits up high and goes only about 10 miles per hour, giving him a great view and time to enjoy it. His trip also required him to trust that he would be safe, while recognizing his vulnerability to the cars on the road and the strangers on his journey.

“If we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we really get to know people,” he said. “You get to see what a gift it is to be alive.”

Clausen urged students not to wait until retirement to do the things they long to try. But he and other panelists told students not to get discouraged if they don’t already have a clear idea where there lives are going.

Wyatt asked the audience, “How many people here know what their passion is?”

Only a fraction raised their hands, as he expected.

“I didn’t know for a long time either.

I think most people throughout their lives do not have that sense that they’re doing exactly what they should be. You have so much time to crystallize your future – more than you probably see,” he said. “Don’t feel panicky, but don’t fall asleep.”

The weekend included performances by the a capella band The Coats and guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Peter Mayer, who all use music to uplift and bring people together.

Panels were held on healing the world, educating the world, protecting the world, serving in the world, communicating in the world and changing the world in business, politics and ministry.

Panelists included former Superintendent of Public Instruction Judith Billings ’69; Jim Martin-Schramm ’69, professor of religion at Luther College; David Hanson ’69, executive director of Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office; Kelvin Ceasar, senior community building and investment associate for the United Way of Pierce County; Michael Gilbert, reporter for The News Tribune; Lisa Sutton ’79, assistant attorney general for Washington; Ben Shingenge, first secretary of economics for the Republic of Namibia’s delegation to the United Nations in New York, as well as members of the Board of Regents, other graduates and PLU professors.

All the panelists and performers were chosen and contacted by the student planning committee, about 15 students who started brainstorming last spring.

“It’s 100 percent student-designed. It’s amazing to see what students can pull off,” Chrissis said.

Wild Hope Project Director Paul Menzel said they needed minimal guidance.

“We were amazed at how they thought ahead of us,” he said.

Other Wild Hope programs at PLU include upcoming weekend retreats and redesigned inquiry seminars for new students during J-Term, faculty initiatives and more. All are helping PLU students become the thoughtful, contextually aware, committed and creative leaders the world needs.

Organizer Angee Foster ’05 said she wants people to think about all the opportunities available to them instead of worrying about picking a major that will earn them money.

“You’re going to have a college degree. You can do almost anything with that,” Foster said.

But it has also been a chance for students to earn skills that will help them in future careers. Derek Lunde ’05 has designed the graphics and Web site for Meant to Live. Lunde, a business major, hopes to go into advertising, public relations or marketing. He spent countless hours designing banners, programs and advertisements.

“It’s already paying off seeing those banners in Red Square,” Lunde said.

Menzel has been consistently impressed with the student, faculty, and staff participation and creativity in the entire Wild Hope project.

“We’re being unique and different in our Exploration of Vocation project, funded by the Lilly Endowment,” he said. “We are trying to make a difference in this institution for the long run, and to have all students think about their whole lives.”

 

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© Scene 2004  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Winter 2004

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