plumb line noun

1 : a line (as of cord) that has at one end a weight (as a plumb bob) and is used especially to determine verticality

2: a line directed to the center of gravity of the earth: a vertical line

Today is September 11. It’s been 11 years since the event that is one horror among the many (think of Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine High School shooting, to name just two) that have been said to shape my generation, the Millennials.

What shape is that?

USA Today says that Millennials have been shaped by the traumas of our formative years, but have not been broken. Millennials are resilient and are a seemingly irrepressibly optimistic bunch. Yet, even with our positive attitudes, Millennials are almost constantly stressed out about life. Those formative national tragedies we grew up with apparently bring Millennials together in our shock and fear, thinking — Are we next? Millennials are united in a sense of overwhelming urgency.

So, is the shape an optimistic smiley face getting the squeeze like this emoticon?

No, we all know about the great parts about being a Millennial, but what about the parts that make other generations cringe? Millennials are also known as the most narcissistic generation—I mean look at me, writing this whole blog post about my generation! In a New York Times opinion piece, Ross Douthat ponders, “how can the same generation be more solipsistic and more interested in human betterment and ambitious social activism? But maybe they actually go hand in hand.”

So, the shape is like a yin-yang, two seemingly opposing pieces coming together in harmony?    


At this moment, I find that the shape is not a shape (a space that is enclosed), but rather a line. A plumb line, perhaps, as defined by Merriam Webster: “a line directed to the center of gravity of the earth.” When I feel adrift, that is when I seek to return to the center— the center of who I am and who I am called to be—the plumb line.

Today, my plumb line is participation. I feel a sense of urgency in the work we are called to do toward justice and through ELCA World Hunger. I really do believe that all people deserve access to health and wholeness, even and especially in the midst of dismal circumstances. Even when I feel stressed out, I believe there is so much potential in what is to come.

So, friends, in one word, what is your plumb line? From the experiences you have had growing up and in life, to what do you return when you feel downcast? What cord ties together your life’s calling? What keeps you grounded?

I can’t wait to read your responses…join the journey.

Mikka serves as program director for constituent engagement and interpretation with ELCA World Hunger. To join the network and for more information on how you can get involved, write