BY MADELINE BEAULIEU
Douglas Adams once said, “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” All humans are innately different and hold knowledge that is unique to their own beingness, but as Adams acknowledges, we rarely use this to our advantage.
I don’t think this is a new concept, but nonetheless, a notion that has recently come to the forefront of my life in a powerfully relevant way. I have recently reflected on how I am so much more inclined to find things in common between myself and others, than to accept what is inherently different. Overlap is comfortable, and being able to stay within that comfort zone is very appealing.
There is an extreme comfort in finding things that my housemate and I, my work peers and I, or even new strangers and I have in common. But, can there be no comfort in vocalizing heterogeneity? If I’m being honest, my visceral reaction is no; however, every individual I have lived with or worked with, during this year of service, has brought explicitly different experiences and knowledge into my life (truly, things that I otherwise don’t think I would’ve encountered in my life).
Intentional, communal living is one of the foundational commitments of the Loretto Volunteer Program and has been a challenge for me. Initially, I was exhausted in my constant pursuit of commonalities between myself and my roommates. It wasn’t until recently that I consciously chose to explore the many more differences we share as a house. In a conversation with my housemate about professional sports, it occurred to me that we’d experienced the same thing through two completely different ways of knowing. In a moment, I became aware of how my understanding is not universal truth. Her perspective and understanding of professional sports, although different, is just as relevant and true as mine. Ultimately, I gained a refreshingly unique outlook on something I felt I knew a lot about.
Not only have I witnessed this in the context of my home, but also in the community I have become a part of at the Women’s Bean Project. The women I’m working with have much different histories than my own. Knowing I come from more privilege (education, social class etc.) than many of the women, left me feeling uncomfortable at first, but I didn’t want my future relationships to suffer because of it. In response, I decided to be intentional with my relationships and conversations with these women. Rather than fixate on the common ground I felt I needed to find, I allowed my authentic self to meet others in a welcoming and curious space.
In these ways I am challenging myself to dissociate discomfort from difference and to further embrace the opportunities that lie within the rest of this service year. Through my interactions with other people, I am striving to be comfortable (and even excited) in questioning the things I know and how I know them.
Madeline Beaulieu (she/her) grew up in Vestal, New York, a small town in upstate New York. She has a mother who is a veterinarian, a father who is a forester, and a younger brother who goes to Binghamton University. She has played soccer for most of her life and went to Canisius College to play at the collegiate level, while pursuing a degree in Biology and a minor in Spanish. While at school, she has lived the past four years in Buffalo, New York and is excited to move to a new part of the country for the first time. Specifically, she is very excited to move to Denver and be a part of a new community there. Currently she is taking a gap year, while applying to medical schools, with hopes of becoming a doctor one day. She really enjoys getting to know people, learning new things, and expanding her experiences. She is really passionate about social justice and helping people in general (hence the goal to go to medical school). She loves to spend her free time being outdoors, reading, hanging out with family and friends, and trying new foods!
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.