Recently, Fr. Bill Sheahan, SJ, interim president of Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, MO), encouraged members of our Social Studies Department to offer our students extra credit if they went to hear former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell speak at Rockhurst University. The speaker intrigued me, and I imagined that there would be much value for my Modern World History sophomore students if they attended. Thus, I offered the opportunity to my classes and planned to attend myself with one of my fellow KC ASCers.
Mr. Morell served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and was heavily involved as a CIA analyst following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. When asked what it was like to serve as an analyst, Mr. Morell stated that it was like assembling a one-thousand-piece puzzle without having a picture of what the puzzle should look like when completed. To complicate matters, Mr. Morell suggested that analysts only have 250 of the correct pieces for this one-thousand-piece puzzle in addition to 2,000 pieces mixed-in that don’t fit the puzzle at all. From these confusing conditions, according to Morell, the analysts must “figure out” what the puzzle should look like.
While this might sound like frustrating work conditions to most, Mr. Morell surprised me when he said that it is the best job in the world. As I further reflected on things, I realized that ASCing is not too different from being a CIA analyst.
Defining what it means to be a “model ASC” is like trying to put a puzzle together without the picture on the box. Each of us as cohort members bring different gifts and talents to the table, and each of our schools have different needs that we try to fill. Thus, we each have a different “picture on our box” that sums up our experiences. We each have “correct pieces” at our disposal such as strong support from our cohort, ASC staff, and schools; knowledge of our content areas and/or sports; a desire to serve others; and a deep appreciation for Ignatian education.
There are “incorrect” pieces in the box that ultimately do not fit into our ASC puzzles, as well. We might come into this experience with preconceived notions, pride, or an inability to assume charity in all whom we meet and work with. We might bring misunderstandings or a poor attitude into certain parts of our work or community life. These “incorrect” pieces seem to be few and far between, but we are human, after all.
And yet, as we begin to find and put the correct pieces of the puzzle together, things fall into place and just seem to feel right. A successful lesson or game constitutes the assembling of two or more pieces together just as a fun night out with our roommates or a Community Night with the Jesuits does. As the year progresses, our puzzles become more complete and we begin to clearly envision the “big picture”. The challenges remain, but we love our work, and we continue to try to face them head-on.
To some of us, we may be surprised at how naturally the pieces have fit together to form this picture while others have found it to be more of a daily struggle. Regardless, each of us is making his or her own best effort each day to make our world better for others and to discover how our puzzle will ultimately have come together when we complete our year of ASC service in May.
No one told us how to be great or even good members of ASC 27 as we serve our schools and live in community. I would guess that not a single one of us knows for sure how to be so, even today. Still, for each of us, the journey is unique, and the challenges are real, but we all keep striving to find the correct pieces to complete our puzzles. We find value in what we do, and we love the people we are privileged to do it with.
I mean no disrespect to Mr. Morell, but I believe he was wrong. CIA analysts don’t have the best job around. ASCs do.