Kyleah Frederic is originally from St. Amant, Louisiana and recently graduated from Loyola University New Orleans. When she was not studying History or Religious Studies her time was spent volunteering at the Awakening Retreat, working for LGBT equality, or (more recently) taiko drumming. This year, she is working at Doorways in St. Louis, a new placement providing housing and services to people with HIV / AIDS, as a Volunteer Coordinator.
In our program we are asked to reflect upon four separate values: Social Justice, Community, Simple Living, and Spirituality. The most challenging of all four being all four of them. As we have begun to mine the depths of each value I am becoming increasingly aware that they are not separate values at all but, rather, different facets of the same world view. Though, because we are asked to write a short reflection instead of an ethical treatise - I think I will stick with simple living this time around.
Contrary to its own definition “simplicity” has the spectacular ability to be very complicated. But where does this complexity come from? Dictionary.com (yes, shame on me, I know) defines simple as “not elaborate or artificial; plain.” I happen to believe that my experience with simple living so far has been anything but plain. In fact, it has helped my life grow in richness. By focusing on those things which are the most important to me and beginning to weed out those which do not give me life, I have become more focused and whole. Simple living has helped me to become more fully myself.
It is important to mention that a gumbo only tastes praise-worthy after years of practice, hard work, and adjustments. You make a gumbo taste good by making a lot of gumbo and modifying those things that do not work. Simple living works the same way which is why it can become so complicated. For instance, how do you effectively conserve resources in the home - see, social justice ties in here too - and form the habits to continue doing so? Do you make efforts to unplug electronics from the wall before you leave, turn down the heater when you are not home, replace old windows to conserve energy, only use cloth napkins, refuse to buy bottled water? Do you share groceries with your housemates (community!), or cars, or even clothing? What about personal habits? Do you spend time away from your phone each day? Are your personal files spread out across three distinct devices and hosted by five different programs? Do you feel some strange requirement to go to the gym when you do not even enjoy it?
You see, “simplicity” has the ability to be anything but simple. This is partially because many of the questions you might consider addressing or habits you might consider forming are contrary to societies habits at large. We are taught to live a complex life in a complex world. The trouble is, this complexity has the ability to wear down people to such an extent that we allow ourselves to give up those things that we hold the most dear in order to operate within it. This value allows you to take back those things and become intentional about your treatment of them. The beauty being, less truly is more so long as what you own and consume has honest value to you. And what is even better, simple living can look radically different depending on who the person is. My manifestation of the value does not need to resemble yours and that is perfectly okay. As it says in I Am the Way: “We promise to hold all things lightly so that, if deprived of them, we lose neither dignity nor peace.” Take a moment to reflect upon this and the people, activities, and objects within your life. Find those which hold the most meaning to you - and care for them as if they were a gift to you - because they are.
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.