Summer 1987. I am 22 years old. This is between my second and third year in law school. And I have a crisis of conscience. My roommate Ann is planning to intern at her parents' Spokane law firm for the summer. (Spokane is an eight hour drive from the Willamette Valley university where we both go to law school.) Best summer job I can find is waiting tables in a local diner. However Ann lands an internship offer with a prestigious Seattle law firm. Ann's parents offer me the Spokane job, in her place. It is too good of an opportunity to turn down. I have been taking a 400-level "Police Procedure" class as an elective. A local police detective frequently visits the class, giving presentations and answering questions. During this period, this detective and his partner catch a series of troubling felonies. And our professor volunteers the whole Police Procedure class to help, by doing background research. It does help, by narrowing the investigation down to a single job-listing board for temporary labor. Usually one-day, two to three hour jobs. The detective and his partner would like somebody on the inside. Not exactly doing "undercover" work, just someone to gather information about everyone who hires from that job-board. There are 45 people in the class who the detective and his partner interview. I'm the first person they ask. It means staying in town over the summer, and catching day-jobs via the job-board. It could get dangerous, but probably not if you restrain yourself and just keep your eyes and ears open. Dangerous only if you "snoop." The detective likes me, thinks I have the "right temperament" for this. Helping out might solve a series of nasty felonies, maybe even save somebody's life. I think about it for 24 hours. But I ultimately turn the detective and his partner down. If I do well in Spokane this summer, I am virtually guaranteed a good job after law school, once I pass the BAR. I'm thinking of my future, of what fits my "career track." It was the most "reasonable" thing to do. Yet every couple days, that summer, I walk over to the downtown Spokane Public Library overlooking the falls. I scour the Oregonian and other Willamette Valley newspapers looking for mention of developments in the case, hoping to hear that the police have caught a break but fearing the worse, more havoc. Nothing, all summer. Spokane is good to me, do well, learn a bunch. And Ann's folks do offer me a job after I pass the BAR. But I am strangely not happy about that. First thing I do, once I return to school in the autumn, is sign up at that job-board. That summer had proven a serious crisis in conscience for me. Not growing up in a religious environment, this was something I didn't know how to handle, at the time. Mom and Dad are serious-minded secularists, professional people. And that is how I was raised. My grandparents, on one side, were both serious-minded Protestant Christians. On my other side, serious-minded Buddhists - Granddad was Mahayana Buddhist, Grandmom was Chan Buddhist but with wide taste in her reading. None lived close enough nearby to be much influence upon my moral development as a kid. Except Grandmom after Granddad died (she lived with us awhile). "Read this, read this," she'd always say. Dutifully, I would. But my moral development into my teen years was more conditioned by Star Trek reruns than by Zhuangzi or Han Feizi. I liked the rational Mister Spock best. Signing up for the job-board is not a rational decision, on my part. The detective tells me I should remove my name. He and his partner, having put another person "on the inside," did not have adequate personnel to cover both of us. I tell him no. I am staying on the job-board whether or not I am given adequate backup. He personally puts in a load of unpaid overtime just to make sure I am safe. In December I encounter something during one job. It provides the piece of the puzzle that cracks the case, and makes the Willamette Valley a little bit safer place for awhile. What I have done, I have done rashly and perhaps unwisely. But, at this particular juncture in time at this point in my life, I simply feel compelled to do it, morally. And the doing of the job, and doing it well, becomes almost a spiritual exercise. It changes the whole trajectory of my life. Upon graduation, in June, I do not study for the BAR exam. I catch an airplane to DC. And I begin to realize that life really cannot exist . . . outside of religion. Some religion, any religion. Facing up to moral decisions - and spiritually in-focusing - are what give life deep and specific meaning, over and above rational secular freedoms and irrational corporeal passions, as important as these also are to leading a well-rounded life. And that summer of 1987 is where my "serious-minded" study of religion properly begins. Jane-Q.