BY MADELINE BEAULIEU
Taking a step back to see what I know, why I know what I know, and how I know what I know is relatively new to me. I think this reflection is overlooked a lot in younger generations, including myself. Before I committed to my year of service within the Loretto community, I knew that I was a smart, driven individual, capable of critical thinking. That being said, within the last month of my service in Denver for the Loretto Volunteer Program, I have come to realize how all of those things can be elevated and enhanced when you are inwardly reflective of why and how you think the way you do.
A month is a long time and also a short time, depending on the perspective taken. Is a month long enough to change a mindset or re-train the thoughts that come to the surface of our consciousness? In my opinion, at least partially.
Throughout the past four weeks, two weeks of orientation and two weeks of non-profit, volunteer work, I have lived more intentionally, aware, and exposed than in any other month of my life. Before my participation within this program I had never lived as deliberately and consciously in a home. I had never conversed as deeply about the way my housemates and I wanted to live in a home. I had never been exposed to tangible realities surrounding social injustices, gender and sexuality conflicts, and sustainability practices. All of this is to say that a lot of what I thought and understood about life, was just what I understood about my own bubble of reality. Although I had heard about these things, I was never as profoundly exposed to them in my life; at least not with the perspective that I’ve experienced them with during the last month.
To say that I am more aware of new realities and how they are separate and different from my own previous reality, is true. To say that I was comfortable whilst diving into intentional living practices and learning about social injustices and conflict surrounding gender/sexuality, would be false. I was extremely uncomfortable for a large portion of the first month of my service with Loretto…and to be quite honest I still am. Although I am put in uncomfortable situations constantly, I know this space is one where conversation is encouraged, and questions are invited. I consider myself extremely lucky to have housemates who have taught me about gender identities and sexual orientations that I have never heard of. I have been lucky (yes, lucky) enough to witness the reality of the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty in our society, through my daily work at Women’s Bean Project.
Through a month’s worth of deep conversation and new experiences, I have come to appreciate a few things. One, everyone grows up in a very individually unique environment, which provides the foundation for the way people think, behave, and react to things as young adults. Two, it becomes harder, as young adults, to change our fundamental thoughts, behaviors, and reactions because of a “lifetime” of singular realities and educations. And three, although young adults are seemingly stuck in our ways, we are still extremely malleable; ready and capable of being taught and exposed to new ways of life, new realities, and new ways of thinking…if we are equally as willing to transform.
When I committed to serving within Loretto, I knew that I would be putting myself in a new and potentially uncomfortable situation. The overall values expressed by Loretto aligned with those which are important to me, but Loretto is helping me to pursue an intentional immersion, through action, led by these values. Four weeks doesn’t seem like a long enough time to ultimately change the way an individual thinks, but I believe it has already happened for me. Even within this seemingly short amount of time, I have increased my awareness of myself and the way I think. I am more aware of what I know, why I know what I know, and how I know what I know. The first month of this year of service has proven to be the push I needed to gain a little more access into understanding my role in this world.
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! She is extremely thankful and excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the Loretto Volunteer Program family!!
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.