Reflection on Simplicity
__by Kathleen Stephan
Kathleen Stephan is a Loretto Volunteer serving as a legal and social services case manager at Bread for the City.
As Loretto Volunteers we are called to live a life of simplicity. I began thinking about this concept after I graduated from college in the spring of 2010. I had committed to a year in El Paso, Texas with the Border Servant Corps- a community based program with a similar mission to Loretto.
Throughout my year in El Paso, I was amazed to realize that simplicity brings forth generosity. My trust in community grew and slowly I began to let go of my fears of not having enough. Our kitchen was never empty and the table was always full. I left the desert with an understanding that our society reveres convenience. We, as people, have immediate access to anything. It is a hard truth but my commitment to simplicity has required me to rescind my entitlement to convenience.
_There is nothing quick about preparing beans from scratch, taking the bus to work, working with clients who are severely mentally ill, and hanging clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. There is no fast conclusion for constant accountability to four other women and a larger religious community. It is rewarding, fruitful and encouraging - but it requires work, planning, consideration, sacrifice and time.
There is nothing simple about living simply, it is in fact one of the most complex undertakings I have ever tried. Most of the time I am content to live the life I lead in the the way I have chosen. However, sometimes thoughts of "Why am I trying to do this? I can't do it perfectly!" will send my peace of mind tailspinning out of the sky. I am learning to not be overwhelmed by failure, to stop suffocating myself so I can breathe deeply, forgive myself, and try again.
I say that simplicity is a practice because I want it to become my mindset. I have to be conscious of what I allow into my life and how it will affect me. I hope to find satisfaction by investing myself to the best of my ability and not by controlling the outcome. I want to enjoy the present and find pleasure, joy and peace in everyday tasks. I want my relationships to be honest and uncluttered by insecurity. I want to love because people deserve it, and receive love because I do too. I want to be simple enough to be in awe of the complexities that surround me everyday.
Our society lies to us when it sells convenience. It tells us that we'll only be happier, more productive, and better if we do things faster, quicker and with greater efficiency. Those are not terrible qualities but they can't alone reflect my values or the beliefs I have about peace, justice and healing. I never want to be so numbed by convenience that I stop recognizing the injustice around me.
Simplicity has helped me to slow down and recognize that I have a choice in how I live. Furthermore that I need to make choices that support everyone's right to choose how they live; it is a simple idea with radical connotations. It says that I will not embrace convenience if it takes away your ability to work decent hours for a fair wage, to raise your children in a safe place, to have access to quality healthcare, education and dignity without fear, humiliation or disregard. I will work to remove my reliance on a system that oppresses you even if it means I can't do everything I would like. I'm in no way there yet - I don't think I ever will be - but I'm committed to it and I am proud to be doing so with the Loretto Community.
1/24/2012 11:52:25 pm
Nice essay Kathleen. You have made some wonderful points.
1/26/2012 07:13:17 am
We are proud of you and your essay was quite on target
2/7/2012 12:07:30 pm
Very thoughtful and inspiring piece, Kathleen.
Eva Antone Ross
3/21/2012 10:51:00 pm
I'd like to know more about your year in El Paso. I've volunteered much time in developing El Paso events for Jubillee year.
Lisa Reynolds, Loretto Co-member
7/7/2012 07:19:08 am
I really appreciated your article, Kathleen, and your thoughtfulness about both the challenges and rewards of attempting to live simply. It's such an important issue for us culturally; thank you for addressing it - and living it.
Eleanor Craig, SL
9/24/2012 01:20:31 am
Thanks so much, Kathleen, for taking time and effort to put your thoughts and experience into words. You've given me fresh challenges as I begin my 50th year with Loretto.
3/21/2013 04:59:29 pm
I love your thought, simplicity brings forth generosity. According to my experience that is hundred percent true. If everyone in the community starts believing in simplicity that can bring a drastic change to our society. Let’s hope for that soon.
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