3 Months and 2,400 Miles

Posted: November 21, 2012 in community, self, simple living, social justice, spirituality, time

It’s hard to believe it’s been over three months since I arrived on the West Coast. Things have been going fast and for several reasons, I wanted to sit down and intentionally write about and where I’ve been in the first 25% of my JV experience. I’ve sprinkled quotes I’ve come into contact with this year as kind of section headers since this is a longer-than-usual post

That’s not to say there isn’t other beauty in my neighborhood

“Beauty cannot be seen in Boyle Heights by a common man with a closed mind, but the true beauty of Boyle Heights can be felt by the spirit of community one feels when he is truly immersed…” -a comment on the LA Times community page

I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself from time to time. The people I have met through my work in the community stand out as the true beauties of this area.  Their connectedness, their orientation toward taking action, their love of celebration all speak volumes of where they are as a community and where their roots are.

“Never be content.”- a reminder from my roommate

Constantly hungry for new ways to live out the 4 values of JVC (community, social justice, spirituality, and simple living), I’ve been reassessing what I’m doing, investigating new issues, and becoming more mindful of how my actions affect others.

It’s this burning for a more wholesome lifestyle that urges me to search for change. At the same time though, I sometimes get stuck on in the rut of not being satisfied with what I am doing.  I notice what I want to change, but don’t move past it.   This is best spelled out in my struggle to understand the value of simple living.  One aspect of living simply asks me to declutter my life physically, to let go of unhealthy attachment to material things.

Simple living? The unintentional and hilarious side effect of not owning my own sheets

At times it is hard to think that I’m living simply. On top of my having my housing, healthcare, food, and other expenses taken care of, I have a monthly stipend.  My community regularly gets bread from Homeboy Bakery (http://www.homeboyindustries.org/). I’m living in a place that I’m surprised to say is an affordable housing unit.

In the grand scheme of things though, I have made a lot of changes in the way I’m living.  In my house we joke about our “old lives” and the ways we would have acted in situations before becoming Jesuit Volunteers. I have to say that the old Jon probably wouldn’t be learning guitar, or going on peace walks, or being more informed about the news, or cooking, or cleaning (as much), or even sitting down for a creative project once a month.  I feel like I appreciate the little things more too.  Any time I’m not drinking plain water, it’s a treat. When I go to a movie theater, it’s an adventure with friends.  When it’s cloudy, it’s a welcomed change of weather (bizarre, I know…). When I got to play Nintendo 64 for an hour and a half over Veteran’s Day weekend (an insignificant amount of time for the old me), it was a great joy and a reminder of growing up.

This is also a humbling year. I think that part of living simply is being able to accept people’s incredible generosity– gestures that have ranged from invites to baptisms to laughs to pupusas to excursions on the beach.

“You don’t get to choose whether or not your action affect others” –from MTV’s old show “If You Really Knew Me” (surprise! At least one episode was wholesome enough for me to show to my scholarship students as part of an anti-bullying class)

As a house community we are challenging ourselves to become better people. We have monthly “challenge weeks” in which we look at different issues, learn about them, and do an activity related to them. This month we are looking at water.  I’ve been keeping track of how much water I use each day and what I use it for as well as looking up facts on water scarcity in the world.

One of the most incredible parts of this year is that, despite working a full time job (and then some on certain weeks), I get to focus on myself. I’ve been able to reflect on the parts of my life I want to strengthen and actually have a space to do that.

One Gospel that has helped helped give me a new lens in the year is Mark 10:46-22.  One of the priests at my parish pointed out that it’s the people who bring eventually call to the blind man and bring him to Jesus. I’ve been asking myself : Who or what encourages my blindness? Who lifts up and encourages me? What do we want from God? Who do I help bring to God/sight? Who do I through work or neglect  keep  in the dark?

“The Glory of God is found in the living person” – St. Irenaeus

Some of my casamates and folks in other JV communities have begun to challenge ourselves to live as our truest selves, to become more fully alive people by participating in this beautiful movement started at John Carroll University (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIwdX1zm7aI&feature=plcp) I’ll be reflecting/“being”/meditating/praying for 15 min each night for the next 30 days.

Amdist all the business of my life, between drenching food in Tapatio and running meditations with elementary school students, I’m hoping to see, as a co-worker phrased it, “God’s patience and willingness and love of exactly where [I am].” Yeah, things are different from being back home, but this life is a good life. It’s ok to struggle. It might be preferable to not struggling, at least I know I’m growing.  We are all going through this crazy, eventful, hilarious, blessed life together.

“I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you.”- Ita Ford 

 

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