Inter-generational dialogue can be an enlightening and fruitful experience, but also a seemingly rare one in the digital age. Recently, current Jesuit Volunteers were able to engage with Jesuit Volunteer EnCorps volunteers about the value of simple living and what it means to them in their volunteer experience and personal lives. The results? JVE Cathie Jarosz and JV Hilary Korabik tell it firsthand.
“The early evening was fresh and crisp after a rainy Sunday. The opening circle graced us, JVs and JVEs, together, as we dove into the topic of simple living. After dinner, our conversations continued in small groups. Hilary and Michelle were the JVs in my small group. I was struck by their vulnerability and faith, their laughter and enthusiasm. I recall thinking, “The word enthusiasm–en Theos; in the presence of God.…Indeed, that’s how this evening feels to me right now!” These young women were honest and real about their struggles and joys. They shared stories and invited us in. I saw so much eager goodness in them. They were that fresh and crisp spring rain brought inside.
I shared some of my own faith experiences too. As I look over the shoulder of my life, I see that God’s mercy and love beckons me to the more of love. And over our lifetime, as we can let in the love of God, we get to fall in love with God’s people. Organically, that’s how the Spirit of God works I believe! God continues to invite us where we are, to grow and become, to let go and be free. Free for love, free for God and free for others. For me, the word freedom is implicit in my understanding of living simply. It’s not how much I do or don’t have, but how free am I to let go of it. Freedom from …(put in your own word here; fear is a good one). The other side of this is Freedom FOR. (For what, for Whom?) When my living is simpler, and I am more free, I can offer the gift of presence. In a nutshell, simple living is for freedom, for presence. And so often presence is the only real gift I have to offer.
At my ripe age of 67, I myself do not have living simply down as an accomplished attribute and many days I’m not sure I want it on my spiritual bucket list. (Oh well, it is reassurring to be God’s sacred mystery still unfolding rather than a religious project to be completed on time.)” – Cathie Jarosz (JVE Portland, OR ’13-14)
“We sat, cross-legged, on the carpet of the Morris House living room, the remnants of our shared meal surrounding us. I had been unsure of what to expect from the JV/JVE conversation on simple living, especially because simplicity has been the most challenging of the JVC Northwest values for me. However, sitting with my housemate Katrina and our new JVE friends Cathie and Mary, I felt immediately comfortable sharing with them how fiercely I’ve struggled with simple living this year. It’s been hard for me to live within the $100 budget. It’s been hard for me to share a food budget with six other people. It’s been hard for me to always be fully where I am when I sit next to a computer all day at my placement and when I have the option of having a cell phone with me at all times. Now, nine months into my JV year, I’m beginning to realize no matter how I’ve tried to reroute my thinking, the word “simplicity” has in some ways sounded synonymous to “deprivation.” Because I have to say no to some of my wants to stay in the JV budget—no to eating out as often as I was used to, no to buying pretty new things as often as I’d like—I had forgotten what had attracted me to this value a year ago, when I was applying for my JV year. Happily, without trying to fix me, without putting any value judgment on my struggle with simple living, Cathie asked me why I was trying to live simply. What is the purpose? Are you trying to live in solidarity with the people you serve? Are you looking for freedom? What about simple living draws you in?
There are little sacred moments in my life, when someone can say one word that opens up a part of my spirit that had been longing to be named. Freedom. With this word, I could suddenly articulate why I wanted to live a simple life. I want to be free, to be unencumbered by my wants, by other people’s expectations of me, by my expectations of myself, by our society’s pressure to always be connected. I want to be free to be fully present to my community, and to the women and children I serve. Most importantly, I was able to recognize the areas in my life where I am living simply. In choosing not to bring a computer with me this year, I’ve eliminated a major source of distraction from my life, and have instead been able to take up knitting, have developed a journaling practice, and have been learning guitar from my housemate Jared.
Katrina, Cathie, and Mary expressed similar motivations for living simply, and we talked about the need to be gentle with ourselves and to recognize growth, in addition to identifying areas to work on. We talked about our desires to surround ourselves with beautiful things and memories—and also about our desires to be detached from such things. We talked and we laughed and one of us observed that even though we are different ages, the four of us have the same heart—we even exchanged numbers so we can keep in touch. At the end of the night, I went to bed with an energy and a kind of gratitude that I’m graced with only occasionally. Since our conversation, simple living hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been easier. I’ve been able to see that I am saying no to immediate wants in order to say yes to more life-giving, long-term desires. I’ve been able to say the words “simple living” a little more joyfully.” – Hilary Korabik (Portland, OR ’13-14)