Hearing the Call

Darren Reiley '96

Darren Reiley ’96 didn’t realize his call to service until after he graduated. But the executive director of the Eugene-based Peace Village traces his journey back to his Pacific roots.

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Sooner or later, like it or not, we have to grow up. All right, we don’t have to. The world is riddled with examples of grown-up adolescents, after all. There is, however, something native to the human spirit that calls to us, from the earliest inklings of awareness, summoning us into the fullness of our power. 

The mythologies of the world all sing of this call; they all speak of this power. I don’t mean power as in political clout or the ability to control. I’ve come to believe that it is by discovering our power to uplift and inspire, to serve and connect, that we become our fullest selves.

As a fun-loving, fairly self-absorbed undergrad, I was entranced by the mysterious world, growing wider and more mysterious with each new class at Pacific University, each new friendship, each new day of dawning realizations.

I forgive myself that I was more interested in what the world had to offer me than what I had to offer it at that point in my life. 

Much as I hate to generalize, there is something particularly American about that attitude, as I discovered during my senior year study abroad in Austria, where the job of a college student is as much political agitant as hunter-gatherer of knowledge. 

Perhaps that’s unfair: Many of my Pacific classmates were more engaged in the larger world than I. As a slow learner, my awareness of the broader human family dawned as slowly as a foggy day in the Grove. My education abroad was an eye-opener and an experience that I feel now should be a standard graduation requirement. 

Even so, though the irises of my worldview had certainly begun to bloom, my focus remained constrained to self-service. New love and the apparently dubious utility in the job market of a BA in English lit and creative writing dominated my attention after graduation. 

It wasn’t really until after I left the Grove that my spirit began to stir with the question: What was I offering to the world? 

Writing, story gathering and storytelling—these had always been my passion, my calling, my art. So I vaguely launched into a folklore master’s degree program at the University of Oregon with the idea of gathering more stories, teaching at a small University like Pacific, and writing during the summers. 

Fine. 

Sure. 

But in that context, my desire to teach was still self-motivated, still essentially egocentric. 

It was during my first year in Eugene that Wintry Whitt Smith ‘97, my good friend from Pacific, called me up and said, “Hey Darren! You should come teach at this great summer camp I’m involved with on the coast this summer. You’ll love it. It’s called Peace Village. You can come help me teach conflict resolution.”

“Conflict resolution?” said I. “I’ve never learned conflict resolution. How am I supposed to teach it?”

“Just follow along. You’ll be fine,” she assured me. 

And so I went.

It turned out that this Peace Village summer camp had been devised by a United Church of Christ pastor named Charles Busch in Lincoln City.